A Prescription for Canada: Achieving Pharmacare for All


{Excerpts]Canadians have considered the idea of universal drug coverage, as a complement to universal health care, for over five decades. For such a long-standing debate there is a surprising level of consensus. After hearing from many thousands of Canadians, we found a strongly held, shared belief that everyone in Canada should have access to prescription drugs based on their need and not their ability to pay, and delivered in a manner that is fair and sustainable. That’s why our council has recommended that Canada implement universal, single-payer, public pharmacare.

There is no single, uniform method in Canada for a child with asthma to get her inhaler. It depends on her family’s coverage. There is no one consistent way that all cancer patients obtain take-home cancer drugs or medicines for coping with chemotherapy side effects. Some pay more. Some pay less. Some don’t have access to those medicines at all.

There is a cost to universal pharmacare and we understand that governments have fiscal limits. But universal, single-payer, public pharmacare can save billions by lowering the price we pay for prescription medicines and by avoiding the greater costs that accumulate when a manageable condition becomes a serious health crisis or when complications develop because someone could not afford to take medicine as prescribed. It might be the person recently laid off who stops taking medicines for preventing heart attack or stroke. They don’t feel an immediate, daily difference when they take those pills. So, they question the expense when money is tight. They mean to get back on the medicine when they get back on their feet. But time runs out. They end up in an emergency room in crisis. They may now need ongoing home care. Any return to work is delayed or maybe never happens. Barriers to accessing prescribed medication can and do result in additional visits to the doctor’s office, emergency departments and hospital inpatient wards, all costing our society much more than the cost of that preventive medicine. Improving access to prescription medicine improves health outcomes, reduces health care visits, and saves billions in downstream health care costs.

Our current fractured system also weakens Canada’s negotiating position with pharmaceutical companies. We pay some of the highest drug prices in the world. Other countries with universal pharmacare get better deals for the same drugs. 
Dr. Eric Hoskins

Final Report of the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare: