Research Project

Canada's return on investment from pharmaceutical care: A population-based evaluation

In 2007, Canadians will spend $30 billion on pharmaceuticals—not including drugs provided in hospitals. This represents nearly two-thirds of what Canada will spend on hospital care (including drugs provided in hospitals) and 50 per cent more than what we will spend on physician services. It also represents three times what Canadians spent on drugs ten years ago. If these trends continue, drug costs will surpass hospital expenditures by 2017. At that point, one out of every four dollars spent on health care will be spent on pharmaceuticals in the community setting. Yet despite the scale of expenditure involved, no rigorous evaluations of Canadians' return on investment from pharmaceutical spending have been conducted at the population level.


This Canadian Institutes of Health Research-funded, three-year project will provide policy makers, practitioners and the Canadian public with new, previously unavailable evidence about the extent to which increased pharmaceutical spending improves population health--or saves money in other areas of the health care system. CHSPR will bring together leading experts in pharmaceutical policy, health services research and health economics from UBC and across Canada to investigate:

  • To what extent pharmaceutical expenditures are driven by health needs, population aging, care practices and other factors.
  • To what degree increased pharmaceutical expenditure improves population health or saves money in other areas of the health care system.
  • Whether prescribing appropriateness correlates with positive returns on investment in pharmaceuticals at the population level.


The research team will (1) use the BC Linked Health Database, North America's largest population-based and person-specific linked pharmaceutical and health care dataset, and (2) employ advanced statistical methods that have never been used to study pharmaceuticals at the population level. This pioneering research will generate significant new knowledge about this important, and fastest growing, component of the health care sector.

Project Team

  • Contact: Steve Morgan
  • Morris Barer
  • Kenneth Bassett
  • Charlyn Black
  • Colin Dormuth, Therapeutics Initiative, UBC
  • Robert Evans
  • Paul Grootendorst, McMaster University
  • Barbara Mintzes
  • Thérèse Stukel, Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences
  • James Wright

Funding and Support

  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research