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HESA pharmacare report paves way for universal drug coverage

Health Committee report on pharmacare paves the way for universal prescription medication coverage for all

OTTAWA (April 18, 2018) – Doctors across the country welcome the Federal Standing Committee on Health’s report, Pharmacare Now: Prescription Medication Coverage for all Canadians, released this afternoon in Ottawa. The report comes after two years of testimony from 99 witnesses, including representatives of Canadian Doctors for Medicare.

“Today, close to one million Canadians are cutting costs on food or heat to afford their medications and roughly three million Canadians are without basic drug coverage,” said Dr. Danyaal Raza, Chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare. “Canada is the only high-income country with a universal health care system that does not include a universal drug plan. That needs to change.”

The existing patchwork of drug coverage is inefficient and expensive. Last fall, the Parliamentary Budget Office estimated that under a universal pharmacare plan Canada could save $4.2 billion in annual prescription costs.

The committee’s report lays out a series of recommendations to reduce the costs of prescription medications in Canada, including: expanding the capacity of the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health to review the effectiveness of expensive specialty drugs; a transparent decision-making framework for price negotiations; designating a common agent for the bulk buying of prescription drugs; requiring that patented drug manufacturers reduce their prices after 15 years if there is no generic substitute; and using competition to negotiate price reductions.

“The research has shown that we can spend less and ensure that every Canadian can access the medications they need,” said Raza. “An expansion of our single-payer system to include a universal pharmacare program would allow everyone to fill their prescriptions, regardless of their income, and coverage wouldn’t be linked to their job.”

Every serious commission of inquiry on pharmacare over the last 50 years has concluded that we should include prescription drug coverage in our public medicare system. This report from HESA is just the latest in this series of reports.

“It was especially heartening to see that the committee came to the same conclusion that many healthy policy experts have – that focusing solely on the gaps in coverage would not lead to better overall health outcomes or cost control,” said Dr. Monika Dutt.

The committee concluded, “the best way to move forward in establishing a universal single player public prescription drug coverage program … by expanding the Canada Health Act to include prescription drugs dispensed outside of hospitals.”

“With the strong recommendations in this report, we hope that the recently announced Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare will now get to work on implementing universal pharmacare,” concluded Dutt.

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