Applied Health Economics and Health Policy

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 19–26 | Cite as

Differences in generic drug prices between the US and Canada

  • Malcolm Gooi
  • Chaim M. Bell
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.


Generic Medication Oxazepam Median Price Average Saving Online Pharmacy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Dr Bell is the recipient of a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Institute of Aging New Investigator Award. Both authors contributed to the conception and analysis of the data, the draft and revision of the manuscript and the statistical analysis. Mr Gooi acquired the data, and Dr Bell provided supervision.

The funding agency, CIHR, had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis and interpretation of the data; or preparation, review and approval of the manuscript. The corresponding author had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

We thank Drs Allan Detsky, Don Redelmeier and Ron Wald for their helpful comments on the manuscript.

The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this study.


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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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