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Impact of “me-too” drugs in Canada

‘In British Columbia most (80%) of the increase in drug expenditure between 1996 and 2003 was explained by the use of new, patented drug products that did not offer substantial improvements on less expensive alternatives available before 1990. The rising cost of using these me-too drugs at prices far exceeding those of time tested competitors deserves careful scrutiny. Approaches to drug pricing such as those used in New Zealand may enable savings that could be diverted towards other healthcare needs. For example, $350m (26% of total expenditure on prescription drugs) would have been saved in British Columbia if half of the metoo drugs consumed in 2003 were priced to compete with older alternatives. This saving could pay the fees of more than a thousand new doctors.

Given that the list of top 20 drugs in global sales includes newly patented versions of drugs in long established categories . . . me-too drugs probably dominate spending trends in most developed countries.’

Morgan SG, Bassett KL, Wright JM, et al. ‘Breakthrough’ drugs and growth in expenditure on prescription drugs in Canada. BMJ 2005;331:815-6.