Federal budget misses the opportunity to take a bold step towards universal prescription drug coverage

Canadian doctors were disappointed that the Federal budget released today failed to include tangible steps towards the implementation of a universal pharmacare plan. While the Liberal government claims they remain committed to pharmacare, this budget fails to include the funding required to make it happen. Canadian Doctors for Medicare has long called for the end to close this glaring gap in Canada’s health care coverage, and the need for pharmacare has never been more urgent.

Even before the financial crisis was carried forward by the Covid-19 pandemic, 23 percent of Canadians struggled to fill their prescriptions due to high costs and over one million people reported having to prioritize their prescriptions over food and heat. Now, as we plan for an economic recovery after millions have suffered from job losses, reduced hours, and income shortages, even more Canadians are struggling.   

“As Canadians, we cherish our public health care system that is based on the belief that access to care should be based on need, not the ability to pay. Unfortunately, with the absence of prescription drug coverage, many Canadians don’t have access to the complete care they need,” said Dr. Melanie Bechard, Chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare.   

Pharmacare is a key element of our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic not just because it will help Canadians remain healthy, but also because it is good economic policy. In 2017, the Parliamentary Budget Office released a report estimating that universal pharmacare would save Canadians $4.2 billion in savings. Others have shown that we could further reduce the total spending on prescription drugs through reducing administrative cost and utilizing bulk purchasing. Pharmacare would also result in significant health care savings with an estimated 220,000 fewer visits to emergency departments per year and 90,000 fewer hospitalizations.

“The evidence is clear that universal pharmacare is good for our health and our economy, it is unimaginable that we could fail to implement this vital health policy amidst a global pandemic which has forced us to reflect more than ever on how the health of each person affects the health of the entire community,” said Dr. Bechard. “It is long overdue for federal politicians to stop talking about implementing a plan and to start delivering on these promises.” 

The 2021 Federal budget included no new funding for prescription medicines. The $500 million allocated for rare diseases was originally included in the 2019 budget.


- 30 -

Canadian Doctors for Medicare provides a voice for Canadian doctors, residents and medical students who want to strengthen and improve Canada's universal publicly-funded health care system. CDM advocates for innovations in treatment and prevention services that are evidence-based and improve access, quality, equity and sustainability.

For more information or to request an interview please contact CDM’s Executive Director Katie Arnup at 647-289-5205 or [email protected]

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.