Like other provinces across the country, Ontario’s drug program has incurred tremendous change over the last two years. In fact, an estimated $1 billion in savings has been reinvested into the province’s drug system since changes were first implemented in 2006.
But according to keynote speaker Diane McArthur, assistant deputy minister & executive officer, Ontario Public Drug Programs Division, pharmacy can expect to see even further modifications in the coming months.
McArthur said the “bulge from the aging population” in terms of medication use is still an area of concern in terms of drug spending. “We need to focus on the high-cost users in the system how to change their utilization and get better outcomes,” she said, adding that there will be a relentless focus on the use of evidence to improve quality. “And we still pay too much on generics when you look at the global market.”
With continually growing drug costs, the role of public and private payors is key area of focus. While private plans cover 60% of the population, they account for only 35% of drug expenditures in the country.
“Many new products particularly those for small patient populations do not meet traditional benchmarks of cost-effectiveness that we apply to make drug funding decisions,” noted McArthur. “And the cost to cover these drugs is becoming increasingly unsustainable.”
For pharmacists specifically, she expressed support for the move to expanded services but pointed to the need for consistency and reliable evidence on the benefits of professional services like MedsChecks. “We’re doing well, but we’re not where we need to be yet,” she said. “We’ll know the service is working when other providers start relying on it [for their patient information] rather than duplicating pharmacists’ efforts. We need confidence here first before we can move onto other services.”