July 11th, 2020

// Use of Mental Health Medications Increased with Spread of COVID-19

Use of Mental Health Medications Increased with Spread of COVID-19

Express Scripts Canada Research Examines Use of Mental Health Medications

MISSISSAUGA, ON, July 9, 2020 /CNW/ - The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on the mental and emotional well-being of Canadians. According to research conducted by Express Scripts Canada (ESC), there was an 11% increase in the number of people who made claims for antidepressants between January and June 2020 compared to the same period last year. 

In addition to this striking increase, overall Express Scripts Canada's claim volumes increased by 20% in the pre-isolation period, indicating that patients may have been filling medications despite warnings that stockpiling might lead to drug shortages. This analysis suggests that Canadians were focused on the pandemic and fearful that they would run out of their medications which is further evidence of the serious impact COVID-19 is having on Canadians' mental health. 

The data also suggests that there was an increase of new users for medications used to treat depression and these claims continue to climb. 

"The pandemic has taken a psychological toll on Canadians across the country," says Dr. Dorian Lo, President, Express Scripts Canada. "Our research shows that Canadians are increasingly turning to mental health medications to find some relief." 

Given the depression rate is likely to continue to increase and will remain high, especially in those at-risk (for example, those who suffered a job loss, the loss of a parent due to COVID-19 and front-line workers worried they would get ill), it is evident that taking care of mental health is more important than ever. 

"The increased use of medications used to treat problems related to mental health is understandable given the global nature of the pandemic and there needs to be a heightened awareness on employee well-being. Mental health conditions generally require longer-term treatment so these claims will persist and employers will need to consider holistic approaches to care. Employers need concrete plans to assist employees with mental health concerns. As well, employers must ensure employees who are experiencing mental health conditions have access to doctors, pharmacists, therapists and prescription medications," says Dr. Lo.

Other key findings from the research: 

  • Two other key therapeutic classes of interest during the COVID-19 pandemic are asthma/COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and drugs to prevent infection. Medications for asthma and COPD saw the largest change in claims volume. 
  • Drugs used to prevent infections (anti-infectives) saw a steep decline in claims as sites of common transmission (workplaces, schools, daycares and gyms) were closed and there was an increased consciousness about and practice of hygiene practices (such as hand washing, sanitizing, not touching the face, etc.) 
  • Claims for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine (commonly used for chronic illness, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, on a long-term basis) rose prior to the pre-self-isolation period, but were not sustained.

For a comprehensive infographic, click here.

About Express Scripts Canada

Express Scripts Canada is a leading health benefits manager in Canada and has been recognized as one of the most innovative. Our clients include Canada's leading insurers, third party administrators and government. We work with these clients to develop industry-leading solutions to deliver superior healthcare in a cost-controlled environment. We provide Active Pharmacy™ services to more than 7 million Canadian patients and adjudicate more than 100 million pharmacy, dental, and extended health claims. Through our proprietary consumer intelligence, clinical expertise, and patients-first approach, we promote better health decision for plan members, while managing and reducing drug benefit costs for plan sponsors. Express Scripts Canada is a subsidiary of Express Scripts, a Cigna company. Express Scripts is a healthcare opportunity company that unlocks new value in pharmacy, medical, and beyond to further total health.

SOURCE Express Scripts Canada


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