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Canadian health committee proposes National Pharmacare programme Posted 04/05/2018

On 19 April 2018, Canada’s Standing Committee on Health released Pharmacare Now: Prescription Medicine Coverage for All Canadians, a report advocating the establishment of a national pharmacare programme, i.e. a publicly funded prescription drug coverage programme for all Canadians.

The report is the result of two years of hearings that included 99 witnesses.

Canadians do not currently have access to a single system of public insurance coverage for prescription drugs. They are instead covered by a patchwork of public and private drug plans, while a minority pay completely out of pocket for their prescriptions. This ‘dysfunctional’ system has been blamed for contributing to Canadians paying some of the highest prices for prescription drugs in the world [1] and to an estimated one in five Canadians not taking their prescription drugs because of cost considerations.

According to the report, the main purpose of a national pharmacare programme would be to ensure that ‘no Canadian faces financial barriers in accessing medically necessary prescription drugs’.

The report makes 18 recommendations included under four main action areas:

  1. Expanding the Canada Health Act to include prescription drugs dispensed outside hospitals, with costs to be shared by the federal, provincial and territorial governments
  2. Development of a common voluntary national prescription drug formulary
  3. Improving drug pricing and reimbursement processes
  4. Improving data and information systems

The committee believes that these ‘concrete’ recommendations ‘will lay the framework for the provision of pharmacare to all Canadians’.

Governmental plans are cheaper to run than private drug plans, because governments negotiate low prices with drug companies and they do not cover as many drugs, research has shown. Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer has estimated that CA$4.2 billion annually would be saved on prescriptions if Canadians were covered by these cheaper provincial drug plans.

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1.  GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. Generics still cost more in Canada, but prices decreasing [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2018 May 4]. Available from: www.gabionline.net/Reports/Generics-still-cost-more-in-Canada-but-prices-decreasing

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Source: Canadian Government, CBC

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