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Get your copy: TELUS Health's 2024 Drug Data Trends & National Benchmarks report

For 16 years and counting, drugs for diabetes and depression have ranked in the top-five categories based on eligible amounts submitted for coverage by private drug plans, states the TELUS Health 2024 Drug Data Trends & National Benchmarks report (Drug Trends Report).

For the first time, the annual Drug Trends Report casts back to include claims data from 2008, when TELUS Health began compiling data to share with the benefits industry. “Such a bird’s-eye view allows for a deeper appreciation of how much things have changed, and how they are likely to continue to change at a rapid pace,” says Martin Bélanger, Senior Vice President, Payor and Provider Solutions, TELUS Health, in the report.

The extended retrospective also casts a light on the one thing that hasn’t changed: the steady presence of diabetes and depression as conditions with the biggest impact on private drug plans—and plan members’ lives. In 2008, depression ranked third and diabetes ranked fourth on the top-five list of categories by eligible amount; in 2023, drugs and devices for diabetes topped the list and antidepressant drugs ranked fifth.

The growing prevalence of type 2 diabetes, new clinical treatment guidelines and the off-label use of diabetes drugs for weight loss contribute to its number-one ranking—and the category’s widening lead over the second-place category of drugs for inflammatory diseases.

Growth in utilization is the main factor behind the staying power of drugs for depression. “The share of claimants taking antidepressants was already climbing before the pandemic. By the end of 2023, one in five claimants was taking an antidepressant,” notes Vicky Lee, Manager, Pharmacy Consulting, TELUS Health, in the report.

Stepping back to consider the top-10 categories by eligible amount, the TELUS Health Drug Trends Report reveals that for every $10 spent by private drug plans, $6 go to these 10 categories. The list is evenly split between higher-volume and/or lower-cost categories, and high-cost categories for small patient populations. “The list perfectly illustrates how drug development is evolving in opposite directions, yet both are equally important in terms of their impact on overall spend for private payors,” says Caroline Le Pottier, Consultant Pharmacist, TELUS Health.

Looking ahead, diabetes, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, weight management and women’s health are five categories to watch due to their expected impacts on the drug-plan spend as well as personal health and productivity.

The TELUS Health Drug Trends Report provides a snapshot of specialty drugs’ and generic drugs’ share of volume and spend for private drugs plans. Specialty drugs’ share of the total eligible amount plateaued in 2023 following a decline in 2022, a reflection of the impact of public- and private-sector switching policies for lower-priced biosimilar drugs.

The Drug Trends Report also profiles today’s plan members: how many made a claim, the average eligible amount submitted for coverage per certificate (or household), the number of claims and the average amount per claim. Plus, a closer look at coverage by age groups, including shifts in share over the past 16 years.

Download your copy of the TELUS Health 2024 Drug Data Trends & National Benchmarks report: