Background: There is increasing interest in studying trends in drug utilization because drug costs are the fastest growing sector of the health care system.
Objectives: To focus on the trends in the utilization of and expenditures for cardiovascular drugs in Canada by drug class and by province over a six-year period.
Methods: Data from the IMS Health Canada CompuScript Audit database were used for this study from the period of February 1996 to January 2002. Patterns of drug utilization and expenditures in Canada were described for cardiovascular drug classes, individual agents within classes and by provincial analyses.
Results: Substantial increases in both the utilization of and the expenditures for cardiovascular medications have occurred in Canada over the last six years. Newer medication classes such as angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors and statins now comprise the majority of cardiovascular drugs prescribed, along with continued high use of diuretics. Increases in some drug classes, such as angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, statins and beta-blockers, appear to be based on trial evidence or guidelines. However, marketing may play a larger role in the increases in use of angiotensin receptor blockers and specific drugs, such as amlodipine besylate and atorvastatin, because their increased utilization cannot be explained by major clinical trial evidence and/or practice guidelines.
Conclusions: Changes in patterns of cardiovascular drug utilization and expenditures in Canada may be associated with clinical trial evidence, clinical practice guidelines, policy changes and/or marketing initiatives.