The price of drugs to treat chronic pain has doubled over the last 10 years.
A report from Statistics Canada found the cost of the top 20 most common drugs has risen by an average of 10.5 per cent each year since 2006.
And the cost for the top 25 drugs has doubled, jumping from $8.8 billion in 2007 to $11.4 billion in 2019.
Health Minister Deb Matthews said in an interview that the new figures reveal the “great challenges” of dealing with the growing number of chronic pain patients in the country.
“As a government we have to be able to support people and ensure they have access to the care they need,” she said.
“This is a big issue for us as a government and a government of the day.”
Health Canada says the rise in the cost per treatment is due to several factors.
First, the cost has increased due to the growth of the opioid painkiller market.
Second, the price of medications used to treat the disease has doubled.
Third, the average price per treatment has increased by an even larger amount, rising from $5,000 in 2007-08 to $10,000 last year.
The new figures also show that a growing number patients are opting for less expensive therapies.
In the 10 years before Statistics Canada released the figures, the number of opioid-based therapies prescribed in Canada rose from 4.5 million to 8.4 million.
Those drugs included medications such as oxycodone and fentanyl, as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Some of the most expensive drugs are used to help control chronic pain, but others have been used for years to treat other conditions.
A study published this week in the journal BMJ Open found that the cost to prescribe opioid-drugs increased by more than 50 per cent between 2005 and 2019, when a new drug called naloxone was introduced.
The cost to treat a patient with acute pain in that time jumped from $3,200 to $13,000.
The study says the cost jumped by another 43 per cent for patients who were treated with an anti-anxiety drug and by nearly 200 per cent in those who received an opioid-treatment medication.
“These trends are not a surprise given the increasing use of opioids in chronic pain,” Dr. Sarah Riggs, a professor of health policy at the University of Toronto and one of the authors of the study, told CBC News.
“But it does raise some questions about the efficacy of these medications.”
The average cost of an opioid treatment is now $6,200, compared to $7,000 for an opioid pain reliever.
Dr. Riggs said that the drug industry should be able compete for patients.
“I think it’s really important that we don’t get complacent and think that we’re going to make things happen,” she added.
“And I think it makes sense to look at what we can do to make sure that people have access, not just to opioids but to the medicines that are being used.”
While the price hikes are a concern for patients, Dr. Matthews said that more needs to be done.
The new price hikes were announced in a report prepared by the federal government’s Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), the country’s largest health information agency. “
There are more people who have chronic pain and they’re dying every day and there are people who are getting worse and worse.”
The new price hikes were announced in a report prepared by the federal government’s Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), the country’s largest health information agency.
The report said the rise has been caused by “increasing demand” for medications used in chronic conditions, as a result of the emergence of new treatments, including a shift to using opioid painkillers.
“We are seeing increased demand for opioids, especially opioid analgesics and non-opioid analgesics,” said CIHI spokesperson Julie Gormley.
“Increasing demand for pain medications, including opioids, is one of several factors behind the recent price increases.”