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$1 Billion in Savings for Canadians with a Simple Switch from Prescription to Over-the-Counter for Heartburn meds, Erectile Dysfunction meds and Birth Control Pills says New Conference Board of Canada Study

Consumer Health Products Canada says giving Canadians more OTC choices makes self-care sense.  

March 9, 2017 (Ottawa, ON): One billion dollars could be freed up in the Canadian healthcare system and broader economy by switching just three categories of medication from prescription to over-the-counter (OTC). The savings would come from reduced drug costs, fewer doctor visits, and less time spent away from work, according to a new study by the Conference Board of Canada released today.

  • Total savings in drug costs: $458 million
  • Total savings in doctor visits: $290 million (6.6 million fewer doctor visits)
  • Total savings in labour productivity: $290 million

The Conference Board of Canada report looked at three prescription medication categories. One of these, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) for the treatment of frequent heartburn/indigestion, has already seen some medicines switched to OTC status in Canada. The other two, oral contraceptives (OCs) and erectile dysfunction (EDs) drugs, are being examined as potential candidates for switch in other countries or have already been switched to OTC status there. 

The largest savings estimated in the study was for the prescription to OTC switch of PPIs like Olex® or Nexium®. When available without a prescription, these medicines allow Canadians to quickly access new treatments for the relief of frequent heartburn or indigestion.  The total savings for these switches alone was over $700 million annually. The total savings for the modeled OC and ED switches was $220 million and $106 million, respectively.  

The study found that less time spent away from work collectively adds a $290 million boost in economic productivity, while fewer doctor visits frees up valuable time to treat more complex patient needs. 

“By far the biggest impact from over 6.6 million fewer doctor visits and hundreds of millions of dollars in drug plan savings is to provincial and federal government healthcare budgets,” said Karen Proud, President of Consumer Health Products Canada. “At the same time, all Canadians would benefit from easier access to medicine they need and the reduced burden on our strained healthcare system. Allowing people to choose a trip to the pharmacy instead of missing work to see a doctor just makes sense.”  

While enabling more Canadians to have easier access to family doctors, switching also lowers the cost of treating these conditions for the Canadians who need it most, as OTC medications are more affordable than prescriptions for people without a drug plan or without full drug coverage. However, Canadians with comprehensive drug plans may pay slightly more for the convenience of choosing an OTC medicine over a prescription.

“Canada lags behind countries like the United States, United Kingdom and Australia by six to seven years when it comes to prescription to OTC switches. What the Conference Board of Canada report shows is that this is costing our healthcare system and our economy billions of dollars,” said Gerry Harrington, Consumer Health Products Canada’s Vice President of Policy & Regulatory Affairs. “It’s time for Canadians to have more self-care choices.”


About Consumer Health Products Canada: 

CHP Canada is the industry association that represents the companies that make evidence-based over-the-counter medicines and natural health products. These are the products you can find in medicine cabinets in every Canadian home. From sunscreens and vitamins to pain relievers and allergy medications, people use consumer health products to maintain their health and manage their minor ailments. This is a fundamental part of self-care which is vital to the health of Canadians, the sustainability of our health care system and the strength of the economy. 

For interviews and more information:

Marie-France MacKinnon, Communications Manager
Consumer Health Products Canada
Tel.: (613) 723-0777, ext. 228
Cell: (613) 725-5805

Stay Connected:

Twitter: @CHP_Can, @ConfBoardofCda

Hashtags: #selfcare #switch

Website: Consumer Health Products Canada / / Conference Board of Canada