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CADTH: Our History in the Making

The Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) is an independent, not-for-profit national body funded by Canada’s federal, provincial, and territorial governments. CADTH provides health care decision-makers with credible, impartial advice and evidence-based information about the effectiveness and efficiency of drugs and other health technologies.

Early Beginnings

Conceived by Canada’s federal, provincial, and territorial Ministers of Health in 1989, CADTH was originally the Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Technology Assessment (CCOHTA) and opened its doors on a three-year trial basis in August of 1990.

Health Technology Assessments

CCOHTA’S mandate was to provide Canadian health care policy decision-makers with evidence-based information on emerging and existing medical devices. In 1993, the Conference of the Deputy Ministers of Health added Pharmaceutical Reviews to its mandate, and CCOHTA’s budget more than tripled. A succession of milestones followed:

  • 1994: CCOHTA published Canada’s first-ever set of guidelines for the economic evaluation of pharmaceuticals. These guidelines, which have undergone subsequent revisions, are used throughout the country to assist producers of economic evaluations in generating credible, standardized economic information that is relevant and useful to decision-makers in Canada’s publicly funded health care system.
  • 1998: A landmark court ruling confirmed our agency’s independence by overruling Bristol-Myers-Squibb Canada’s request to halt the release of a CCOHTA report on pravastatin (Pravachol). The Ontario Superior Court of Justice found that CCOHTA had followed proper procedures and conducted a responsible evaluation, and affirmed CCOHTA’s autonomy by allowing the report’s publication.
  • CCOHTA continued to diversify and grow during a dynamic second decade. In December of 1999, the Conference of Deputy Ministers of Health approved its first five-year business plan that laid out a much more ambitious vision for the organization.

The Common Drug Review

In September of 2002, the Conference of Deputy Ministers selected CCOHTA to manage the Common Drug Review (CDR), a single process for reviewing new drugs and providing formulary listing recommendations to participating publicly-funded federal, provincial, and territorial drug benefit plans in Canada.

Expanded Role

In response to the 2002 Romanow Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada and the Kirby Senate Study on the State of the Health Care System in Canada, the federal government’s February 2003 budget directed new funding to CCOHTA, totalling $45 million over five years to address the growing need for reliable, evidence-based information. This led to new initiatives and ultimately an expanded role for CCOHTA.

Liaison Officer Program

CCOHTA launched this unique program in 2003. It places Liaison Officers within the provinces and territories to actively engage with jurisdictional health care decision-makers, and create strong links between CADTH and its stakeholders.

Optimal Use Products

In 2004, CCOHTA continued to expand, with the creation of the Canadian Optimal Medication Prescribing and Utilization Service (COMPUS). This service — in partnership with the federal, provincial, and territorial health ministries — marked the beginnings of our involvement with identifying and promoting optimal drug prescribing and use among health care providers and consumers, and the creation of optimal use products. It was the first service of its kind anywhere in the world.

Canada’s Health Technology Agency

In 2004, Canada’s Ministers of Health approved a new Canadian Health Technology Strategy (HTS 1.0). The Strategy arose from the 2003 Accord on Health Care Renewal. It confirmed CCOHTA’s status as Canada’s health technology agency and represented a collaborative approach toward ensuring that Canadians have ongoing access to appropriate health care technology.

Health Technology Inquiries

In 2005, the Health Technology Inquiry Service (HTIS) — now known as the Rapid Response Service — was established. It provides Canadian health care decision-makers access to accessible health technology information, based on the best available evidence, in a quick and efficient manner. The Rapid Response Service responds to inquiries about drugs, devices, and procedures. Depending on the urgency and/or complexity of the request, information is provided within anywhere from 24 hours to 30 business days.


On April 3, 2006, the Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Technology Assessment was rebranded as the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health, CADTH, a name that better reflects the breadth of services the organization now provides to Canadian health care decision-makers.

Continuous Improvement

Moving into our third decade as a pan-Canadian body, we’re embarking on a number of initiatives to enhance and broaden our products and services to better meet the evolving needs of our customers. This underscores CADTH’s commitment to build on its strong foundation and provide value for money to our customers, while supporting optimal patient outcomes and the sustainability of Canada’s health care system.

We began, in 2009, by integrating our three core programs — the Common Drug Review, Health Technology Assessment, and the Canadian Optimal Medication Prescribing and Utilization Service — in order to provide a more efficient, cohesive approach to the development and delivery of our products and services.

Highlights of this integration included:

  • a centralized point of entry for all product requests and queries to CADTH
  • incorporating a thematic approach for our proactive projects
  • creating a single communications vehicle for all product and corporate announcements
  • a revised corporate website.

CADTH will continue to adapt, as required, to the ever-changing needs of our customers as they attempt to keep pace with the constant, rapid evolution of health technologies and the overall health care landscape.