What we know now
Canadians are often prescribed multiple medications
In 2012, nearly two-thirds (65.9%) of seniors had claims for 5 or more drug classes under public drug programs, and more than one-quarter (27.2%) claimed 10 or more
39.3% of Canadians age 85+ take 10 or more medications
60.9% of Canadian seniors living in long-term care homes took 10 or more medications, compared to 26.1% living in the community
Drug program spending continues to grow in Canada
In 2013, Canadians spent an estimated $34.5 billion on drugs, the majority of which (85.0%) was spent on prescribed drugs, at an estimated $29.3 billion
Prescribed drugs accounted for an estimated 13.9% of total health expenditures
About 68% of $4.4 billion spent in Canada in 2012 on public drug programs was on seniors age 65+
Canadian seniors are often prescribed potentially inappropriate medications
In 2012, almost one-quarter of Canadian seniors on public drug programs used one potentially inappropriate medication from the Beers list and over 5% used multiple potentially inappropriate medications
Almost one-in-ten seniors age 65+ on a public drug program was prescribed Lorazepam, a benzodiazepine, for anxiety, the most commonly prescribed drug on the Beers list of potentially inappropriate prescriptions due to the associated risk of falls and other adverse events
Primary care practitioners prescribe the most and often have questions
Primary care practitioners prescribe about 85% of all prescription medications in Canada
A recent study found that clinicians raised 0.57 questions per patient seen and, of these questions, 34% were related to medication treatment
A secondary analysis of the “Just-in-Time” information librarian consultation service database of questions asked by physicians, 52% of questions related to therapy; of these, 70.7% addressed questions about drug therapy, representing 37% of all questions.
Medication-related adverse health events cost us billions every year
Almost one-quarter of adverse events that patients present with in hospital are related to medication errors, according to the 2004 Adverse Events Study
The cost to our health system per adverse health event related to medication use is over $4,000 with the total cost estimated at $400 million per year
Prescription drug abuse as a public health crisis
Addiction is a potential side effect of prescription medication use; especially relating to the use of opioids (used to treat pain), benzodiazepines (used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders), and stimulants (used to treat attention deficit disorder)
In 2012, 410,000 Canadians reported abusing prescription drugs like opioid pain relievers
In 2015, over 80,000 Canadian teenagers used prescription drugs to get high
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid medication used to treat pain, has drawn national attention in the past year due to the number of overdose deaths reported across Canada
To promote the safe and effective use of opioid treatment for chronic non-cancer pain, researchers at the Michael G. DeGroote National Pain Centre recently published The 2017 Canadian Guideline for Opioids for Chronic Non-Cancer Pain, which updated the 2010 guideline using funding from Health Canada
 CIHI (2014). Page 9. Drug Use Among Seniors on Public Drug Programs in Canada, 2012. Accessed May 26, 2017 from:
 Ibid, pg. 10.
 CIHI (2014). Page vii. Prescribed Drug Spending in Canada, 2012: A Focus on Public Drug Programs. Accessed may 29, 2017 from:
 CIHI (2014). Page 12. Drug Use Among Seniors on Public Drug Programs in Canada, 2012. Accessed May 26, 2017 from:
 Ibid, pg. 9
 Ibid, pg. 27.
 Del Fiol et al (2013).
 Bjerre et al (2013).
 Baker et al (2004). The Canadian Adverse Events Study: the incidence
of adverse events among hospital patients in Canada. Journal of the Canadian Medical Association. 25 MAI 2004; 170 (11). Accessed July 5, 2017 from:
 Canadian Patient Safety Institute. Acessed July 5, 2017 from:
 Government of Canada (2016). About prescription drug abuse. Web page. Accessed May 26, 2017 from:
 See, for example:
 Busse et al (2017). Accessed June 26, 2017 from :