Where you live in Canada and your economic status make a big difference to the sort of prescription medicine you are likely to receive. That’s not supposed to be! In 2002, Canada’s federal and provincial health ministers (except Quebec) launched the Common Drug Review (CDR), to “ensure a consistent and rigorous approach to drug reviews across the country.” A part of this review determines whether a prescribed drug will be available to beneficiaries of federal and provincial drug plans—at no, or minimal, cost.

This paper examines how closely the Common Drug Review recommendations have been reflected in the various provincial plans.  In the authors’ observations of provincial drug formularies and CDR-reviewed drugs, there was a 65.3% agreement with CDR recommendations. The degree of agreement ranges from no better than random chance (50% in Ontario, PEI and Newfoundland and Labrador to fairly high (88.2% in Alberta), with some of that variation depending on the recentness of the CDR recommendations studied.

The Effectiveness of the Common Drug Review in Canada’s National Drug Strategy finds that the interpretation of these results is that the CDR has not aligned provinces into a consistent, national application. The gap between CDR recommendations and provincial drug benefits is greatest for medicines which CDR has objectively determined are cost-effective, implying that affordable clinical benefits to patients are lost.

Click here to read the full paper.