Female lactational medicines are widely available and affordable in Canada, according to a new study.
The study found that a male-only product was cheaper in Ontario than one marketed by a women-only company.
The study’s authors said the price differences are driven by the different types of medical treatments available.
“When it comes to costs, the prices that are on the market in Ontario, like most provinces, are for generic or specialty medications,” said Sarah Henningsen, a senior associate at the National Centre for Women and Innovation, who was not involved in the study.
“So the difference between a generic product and a specialty product is usually pretty small.”
The study was based on data from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, a federal program that helps consumers purchase medical and dental benefits.
The government is also looking into ways to make the drug market more equitable by eliminating discriminatory practices.
“There’s no doubt there are some differences in pricing and there are ways to try to get rid of some of those price disparities, and to have some of the benefits that the pharmaceutical industry provides to patients,” said Jennifer Wilson, president and CEO of the Ontario Association of Pharmaceutical Pricing Establishments.
The researchers said they were surprised that a generic medication cost more in Ontario compared to other provinces, and that there were some benefits to a male option.
“For example, you’re paying a little bit more upfront, which might be helpful to some people,” said Henniesen.
“For women, you can get the same amount for a generic prescription, which could also be helpful.”
Henningsens said that’s the case when the male-oriented medication is cheaper.
“What we’re trying to show is that there’s something to the idea that you can have both a male and a female option, and we’re going to be interested to see if there are any differences in cost and benefits,” she said.
“We can certainly find things that we can improve.”
The authors say it’s important for consumers to know about the differences in costs.
“Women can get these medications at a lower cost than men, because there’s less need for expensive testing,” said Wilson.
“You’re paying for the same treatment, and the difference is in what treatment you get.”
“There are a lot of things you can do to help people understand that there are differences in the costs and benefits, and if there is one, it might be to look at the type of treatment that is being provided,” said Martin M. Shaver, president of the Canadian Pharmaceutical Pricing Association.
Henniesens said it’s worth paying attention to the difference in costs and costs-benefit ratios between different types, and making sure that the medication you get is the right one for your needs.
“I think that people need to make sure they know what the difference [between generic and specialty drugs] is and whether it’s really the best option,” she explained.
“If it’s the same thing, it’s going to work better for everybody, but I think we need to be mindful of the different costs that are associated with the two types of medications.”
For more on the study, visit the National Center for Women & Innovation.