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It’s time for Universal Pharmacare in Canada

By: Sarah Jefferies

We’re depriving Canadians of their Basic Human Right

Canada is the only developed country with Universal Healthcare without Universal Pharmacare. We don’t pay out of pocket for our hospital and doctor visits, so why should we be paying for prescription medications to manage our chronic illnesses, pain management, and improve our overall quality of life?

It’s time Canada should be providing universal access to prescription medication like we do universal health care. Canadians spent roughly $34 billion on prescription drugs in 2018. Competing pharmaceutical companies in Canada are forcing consumers to pay 20-40% more on medication than any other developed country with universal healthcare.

Universal Pharmacare Coverage

The only way for Canada to truly provide its citizens with the access they deserve is to adopt a public coverage plan. Paving the way to a universal drug plan begins with public coverage of essential medicines. This coverage is based on the World Health Organizations CLEAN Meds list. These are 125 most common medications that are deemed to be essential.

The end goal of Universal Pharmacare is comprehensive coverage in Canada. This is the coverage of a comprehensive formulary of hundreds of medications. Citizens will only pay the copayment, around $2-5. This program has been successful in other countries such as New Zealand, Australia, and United Kingdom.

Benefits to Canadians

There are many benefits to adapting universal coverage. It improves the value for our money.Public drug plans are more cost effective because of a single payer system, supplying generic drugs. This provides a huge incentive to drive down drug prices.

Universal coverage can also provide a better relationship with healthcare professionals and their clients by removing the cost barrier for citizens and prescribing universally covered drugs. According to the 2016 Canadian Community Health Survey, 8% Canadians reported to have skipped or stretched out their medication as a result of cost. Canadian seniors and people on social assistance are impacted the most and has been reported that their health had worsened as a result of skipping medication due to cost.

What could this mean for Canadians?

This is a huge breakthrough for the Canadian government, providing equal access to medication without discrimination. Once implemented, this program can save Canada up to $10 billion yearly and alleviate the cost barrier for many medications. All citizens deserve to have equal treatment and access to the medications they need to have the quality of life that every Canadian deserves.

How do we get there?

The federal government can set provinces and territories up for success by providing the appropriate subsidies to have a successful transition plan.

An 8-year plan can provide realistic guidelines to negotiate new legislation for National Pharmacare by 2027. The Federal government would work with each province/territory to negotiate a funding plan suitable for their needs. Transition support would include subsidies to support IT changes and ensure that national pharmacare standards are uniform across all provinces and territories.

Lastly, the government would provide funding to help adapt and change company business models. This would include changing private insurance coverage to covering copayments and insuring rare or drugs not on the national formulary.

There’s no better time

Canadian government must take action now and provide the universal coverage we deserve to ensure all citizens live a healthy life without the barrier of cost for medication. If our government doesn’t take action, the discrimination will continue, and cost will continue to be an issue for those who rely on medication.

The quality of life of Canadian citizens should be the forefront of the government’s priorities. By adapting a new legislation to adapt a Universal Pharmacare program, we are working in the right direction to equality for all.

With a new minority government in place, it is possible that the Liberal government can push towards universal pharmacare. Trudeau government made a promise to implement a down payment on pharmacare over the next four years. It’s time for our government to come to an agreement, work together, and advocate for a healthier society.