The ever increasing costs of pharmaceuticals in Canada has been a TOP news story for the last decade—maybe longer. Increasing pressure on employee benefit plans has only added to the National PharmaCare program debate where patient advocacy of best practices meets dollar savings.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) total health care costs in Canada rose to $242-billion in 2017. That amounts to about $6,600 per person—an increase of almost $200 per person over the previous year.

Treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases through biologic drugs leads in the reason for the increased costs. Biologics are made from or in living organisms, including cells and tissues, and can be gene based. They are more complex to manufacture, have little shelf life, and therefore cost more.

Whether an employee group benefit plan exists or not, it is truly up to the consumer/patient—the end user—to be Drug Savvy on the overall spend.

  • First and foremost, talk to your doctor. Be open and honest about the costs and what it will mean for your household. See if there are other alternatives and options available with the same end results.
  • Investigate provincial and federal programs for chronic diseases and financial relief.
  • Speak to the pharmaceutical representative for potential programs and costs savings
  • Get to know your pharmacist. Is there cost savings through the dispensing fee?
  • Be open to generic and biosimilar alternatives to the brand name prescribed drugs. Chemically identical, they have the potential to save considerable coin.
  • For chronic conditions, see if you can be dispensed a longer supply. Bulk savings apply.
  • Don’t forget about the samples. If your doctor recommends a new medication, ask if the manufacturer provides free samples to start.
  • Be engaged in the process. Review the medication program regularly. Re-evaluate to make sure all is working as planned to see if they remain a necessary component of your overall health. Never stop taking a prescription without consulting your physician.

Of course there is a significant and obvious difference between your health and prescribed drugs to that of groceries or other household items, still, whether a personal costs or an impact to the overall claims on a benefit plan, it pays to be a smart consumer.

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