What’s coming for private plans from Canada’s drug pipeline.

More than 140 drugs are braced for launch from Canada’s drug pipeline today, as they await regulatory approval from Health Canada. The TELUS Health Drug Pipeline Report takes a closer look at 14 of these drugs, anticipated to have the most impact on private drug plans and also take a look at what’s happening among brand-name drugs that have reached patent expiry, and the resulting anticipated launches of generic and biosimilar drugs.

Cancer therapies dominate the drug pipeline, and a fair share of them will be available as pills that can be taken outside the hospital—which means that more cancer patients will turn to private drug plans first for coverage. Estimated costs for these drugs could reach $150,000 to $520,000 annually per patient.

The TELUS Health Drug Pipeline report for 2019 also emphasizes that these new cancer therapies are for highly targeted uses only, based on genetic biomarkers; in one case, the estimated patient population for all of Canada is less than 200. The largest potential patient population, for a drug to treat a certain type of breast cancer, is approximately 5,500 individuals/patients. The cost is $149,300 for the recommended year of treatment.

Outside of cancer, Canada’s drug pipeline includes three specialty drugs indicated for conditions with relatively larger patient populations. Private plans will see the second biologic drug for people with chronic migraines, as well as an additional biologic for severe asthma. New on the scene are specialty eye drops for dry eye, a condition that affects up to 30 per cent of people aged 50 and older. The eye drops are estimated to cost $8,700 annually.

Rounding out the pipeline report are four medications for very rare conditions. All can be administered outside the hospital setting. Three are break-through therapies, and one is a replacement for Soliris, which made headlines as the most expensive drug in the world when it launched more than 10 years ago. Its replacement, which can be administered every eight weeks instead of every two weeks, is expected to cost about 10 per cent less than Soliris, or approximately $605,000 annually.

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