Far Fewer Mental Health Medications are Recommended for Listing on Government Drug Plans When Compared to Non-mental Health Medications?


This very enlightening study questions how genuine our government’s call is for improved mental health treatment. While medication is only one treatment option, for many impacted by a mental health disorder, the right medication treatment can be life changing.

This study published by the Canadian Health Policy Institute (CHPI), compares decisions on access to medications used to treat mental health disorders compared to other health conditions. The study looked at data on all new drugs that were approved by Health Canada as safe and effective and submitted for review to the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) Common Drug Review (CDR) for evaluation from 2004 to 2015. The CADTH Common Drug Review (CDR) conducts evaluations of clinical, economic, and patient evidence on drugs submitted and makes recommendations on the coverage of these drugs on federal, provincial, and territorial public drug plans, with the exception of Quebec.

The study found that 51.5% of non-mental health drugs received positive recommendations compared to 23.8% of mental health medications. The review process also took less time to for non-mental health drugs (192 days) compared to mental health drugs (242 days).

Twenty one mental health medications were reviewed during the study period. Over the eleven year time period only Schizophrenia medications (44%) and bipolar disorder medications (100%) received a positive recommendation. Zero percent of medications for ADHD, dementia/Alzheimer’s disease, and depression reviewed were recommended for coverage by government drug plans.

Why is this important? Clinical research clearly tells us that treatment of these disorders is not a one-size-fits-all approach. One medication may be very effective with few or no side effects for one patient, ineffective for another or cause major side effects for a third. The more mental health medications physicians have access to for their patients the better outcomes we can achieve for those impacted by mental health disorders.

While government departments making decisions on access to medications through their drug plans need to be frugal, research has clearly shown that delaying and denying access to mental health treatments actually increases costs to our health care systems. It was estimated that in 2015 less than 1% of the almost $55 billion Canadian yearly societal cost in economic burden of mental illness was spent on direct costs of new mental health drugs.

Access the brief and full article HERE

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