A shortage of prescription drugs in Canada is making it harder for people to pay, and it could affect the country’s ability to keep a lid on its surging opioid overdose rate, according to a new federal government report.
In a report released Thursday, the government said it has begun issuing orders to insurers to lower the prices of some prescription drugs.
A shortage in the supply of prescription opioids has caused an epidemic of overdoses that has claimed the lives of more than 1,400 people across the country, the report found.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police warned last year that the epidemic could cost the country as much as $9 billion.
The report, prepared by the Department of Finance, said the government’s move to issue orders for price reductions would have a “significant impact” on the countrys ability to treat opioid use disorders, including opioid overdose.
“We have been seeing an escalation in the number of prescription opioid overdose deaths in Canada, as well as the number that have been prescribed in the past year, and there is a lot of uncertainty as to whether this will continue,” said Peter Fitzpatrick, the chief medical officer of the CACP.
“The government is putting an enormous amount of effort into addressing this problem, and unfortunately, it may have consequences.”
The CACP is calling on the federal government to implement new rules to reduce the prices on prescription opioids.
While it acknowledged that the problem is growing, the association said there are still some key issues that must be addressed.
“For example, the lack of transparency around the prescription drug market has not been addressed.
We believe the government needs to address this problem and provide more clarity about the pricing mechanism,” said Craig Gagnon, the president of the Canadian Medical Association.
“But we also recognize there are other key issues, including the availability of access to health care, that must also be addressed.”
The government has been pushing for a more transparent prescription drug marketplace, including a “single market” that would include provincial governments, and other stakeholders.
It said it will continue to work with the CMA, the industry association, and the provinces to craft new rules.
The government said the order is not meant to reduce drug prices, but to provide certainty and prevent further spikes.
“These are not new rules, and they do not change the way the drug market works,” Fitzpatrick said.
“What we are saying is that they should be implemented at a level that gives insurers a better understanding of how to respond to price increases, and gives them confidence in the marketplace.”
The new order comes as more and more Canadians have found themselves in the grips of an epidemic.
In the first quarter of 2017, Canada recorded nearly 3,200 new deaths from opioid overdoses, the highest number since the first half of 2009, according the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
That’s nearly three times the rate of the United States, where opioid deaths rose nearly seven per cent in the same period.
More than half of the new cases in Canada were diagnosed in 2017.
The number of deaths increased in Manitoba, with more than 4,500.
Ontario and Alberta recorded the highest numbers with 2,700 and 1,500 deaths respectively.
The federal government said in January it will begin issuing orders for an average of $200 a month in order to cover prescription drug costs.
Fitzpatrick said the price increase will likely impact the entire country, but that it’s “a start.”
“We’re going to continue to look at ways to mitigate the impact,” he said.
The health department said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on individual cases because the government does not have the authority to set prices.