Applied Health Economics and Health Policy

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 19–26

Differences in generic drug prices between the US and Canada

Original Research Article



It has long been recognized that brand name prescription medications are more expensive in the US than in Canada. However, non-peer-reviewed reports contend that this is not the case for generic medications.


To compare prices for generic prescription medications in the US and Canada.


A telephone and internet survey of pharmacies was conducted for the top 19 dispensed generic medications available in both countries. Twelve pharmacies in total were selected: six from the US (three online and three ‘walk-in’) and six from Canada (three online and three walk-in). Data were collected from March to April 2007.

The main outcome measure was the total purchase price in $US at the day’s exchange rate in 2007, obtained from each of the 12 pharmacies, for 100 doses of each of the 19 selected drugs.


Using the lowest quote for each selected drug, 12 of the 19 (63%) generic medications were least expensive in the US, with an average saving of 47% per drug for these 12 drugs. Seven of the 19 (37%) drugs were least expensive in Canada, with an average saving of 29% per drug for these seven drugs. Overall, there was a sizable variation in prices for the same generic medications within and between the US and Canada.


The lowest priced generic medications were not consistently found in either the US or Canada. The price controls and ensuing savings applied in Canada to prescription patented medications do not fully extend to generic medications.

Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of MedicineUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of MedicineUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Department of Health Policy Management and EvaluationUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  4. 4.The Institute for Clinical Evaluative SciencesTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Department of Medicine and Keenan Research Centre, Li Ka Shing Knowledge InstituteSt Michael’s HospitalTorontoCanada
  6. 6.St Michael’s HospitalTorontoCanada

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