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Provincial Leadership on a National Pharmacare Program

Broadbent Institute | Institut Broadbent / February 02, 2021

The Honourable John Horgan, M.L.A., Premier of British Columbia

The Honourable Adrian Dix, M.L.A., Minister of Health

Re: Provincial Leadership on National Pharmacare Program

Dear Premier Horgan and Minister Dix, 

[Excerpt] Canadians cherish their Medicare system. This support crosses all geographic, demographic and political divides. There is a reason that Tommy Douglas was famously voted the “Greatest Canadian”: and that reason is his role – and that of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) – in bringing single-payer public health insurance to this country. 

Since the introduction of the 1947 Saskatchewan Hospitalization Act, the CCF/NDP have – as a core mandate – advanced the vision of Medicare as a right of citizenship for Canadians. 

We are writing you to ask you to once again fulfill this historic mission through ensuring the government of British Columbia becomes a leading voice in the national effort to achieve universal, public Pharmacare. 

Tommy Douglas’s vision for Medicare wasn’t supposed to end at the hospital door. As you know, Canada is the only nation with a single-payer healthcare system that does not include the cost of drugs in that system. Canadians, by an overwhelming margin, believe this flaw in Medicare needs to be fixed. 

In a recent poll by the Angus Reid Institute conducted in partnership with UBC’s School of Population and Public Health; St. Michael’s Hospital and University of Toronto; the Carleton University Faculty of Public Affairs and School of Public Policy and Administration; and Women’s College Hospital, Toronto, nearly 9 in 10 Canadians support a national Pharmacare program. 

This near unanimity is at least partly explained by the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the same poll, nearly one quarter of Canadians reported that they have recently decided not to fill a prescription or not to renew one due to cost or taken measures to extend it because they could not afford to keep the recommended dosage schedule. 

In the September 23, 2020 Speech from the Throne, the federal government again committed to a universal national Pharmacare program and to “accelerate steps to achieve this system.”

To read the full letter, click on: Provincial Leadership on a National Pharmacare Program


Canadians support pharmacare and it’s time to get on with making it a reality

By Steve Morgan, Dr. Nav Persaud, Marc-André Gagnon and Dr. Danielle MartinThu., Nov. 5, 2020

National pharmacare is needed — and supported — now, more than ever. A new national survey by the Angus Reid Institute makes this clear.

The survey results indicate that more than half a million Canadian households (one in 20 households) have lost prescription drug coverage during the dual health and economic crises of COVID-19. In total, more than one in 10 Canadian households currently has no prescription drug coverage at all.

Millions of additional Canadian households (about one in seven) has inadequate coverage for prescription drugs because, although they are insured, their insurance plans involve deductibles and/or coinsurance terms that require them to pay for most of their prescription costs out-of-pocket.

As a result, one in five Canadian households paid more than $500 out-of-pocket for prescriptions over the past year. One in 10 households paid over $1,000 out-of-pocket.

This happens because Canada is the only high-income country with a universal health care system that does not include universal coverage of prescription drugs.

Provinces provide some drug coverage, primarily for vulnerable segments of the population such as social assistance recipients and the elderly. But, for most Canadians, access to prescription drug coverage is a “perk” associated with having a decent, full-time job in an organization large enough to offer extended health benefits to its employees.

The result is structural inequality in prescription drug coverage and access in Canada.

Households with incomes between $50,000 and $100,000 are twice as likely to be uninsured for prescription drugs as households with incomes over $100,000 are. Women and Canadians of colour are more likely to be uninsured than men and whites.

Studies have found this form of inequality before. Even after adjusting for age, income, and education, immigrants and people of colour are less likely to have prescription drug coverage than nonimmigrants and whites in Canada.

These inadequacies and inequities in prescription drug coverage have significant effects on health.

The Angus Reid Institute survey shows that Canadians in one in four households did not fill prescriptions or skipped doses of prescriptions because of out-of-pocket costs in the past year. Women, young people, people of colour, and middle- and low-income households are all more likely to experience these financial barriers to taking medicines as prescribed than others in Canada are.

Skipped prescriptions result in preventable deterioration in health and increased use of our health care system by hundreds of thousands of Canadians every year. The Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare estimates that this is costing our hospital system more than $1 billion every year.

All of this is occurring at a time when Canadians are most vulnerable and when we most need to keep everyone healthy and out of hospitals that remain under intense pressure from COVID-19.

What is particularly stunning about the lack of government action to solve this problem is the fact that the solution — adding necessary medicines to Canadian Medicare — would not only improve care, reduce disparities, and save lives, it would also save money. A lot of money.

Every credible estimate of the cost of a national pharmacare program — including estimates by Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Department of Finance — has found that such a system will save Canadians billions of dollars more than it will cost government to run.

So, when investing in Canada’s pandemic recovery, the choice isn’t pharmacare or another program. The choice is pharmacare and another program because pharmacare will literally save the money needed to do the other thing.

Canadians appear to understand this. They sure support it.

Click on Canadians support pharmacare and it’s time to get on with making it a reality to access the article.


Don’t buy pharma’s lies about a universal pharmacare program

STEVE MORGAN / Times Colonist May 9, 2019 
Having thousands of different drug plans in Canada drives up administration costs while fragmenting our purchasing power on the global market for pharmaceuticals. Pharma loves this. So, too, do insurance companies. It is why Canadian households and businesses spend far more on prescriptions and related insurance premiums than households and businesses in countries with universal, public pharmacare systems.


National drug care plan funding announcement creates more questions

Elianna Lev Yahoo Canada News – March 20, 2019
Canada remains the only country with universal healthcare but no national drug plan.
While the feds have set the wheels in motion for a national pharmacare plan, many of the crucial details remain unknown. It’s unclear if the program will be funded through a single-payer plan, similar to how most Canadians pay for doctors and hospitals, or go by a “fill-in-the-gaps” approach, as they do in Quebec, where both public and private insurance is used.
Danyaal Raza, chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare and an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, calls the announcement “an important building block”.


Canada’s Unions welcome first steps on pharmacare

March 6, 2019
[Excerpt] “The recommendations in today’s report have the potential to increase access and move to lower costs if implemented alongside a universal, national, public pharmacare program,” said Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress.  “Delivering this through a pharmacare model designed similarly to Medicare will ensure that everyone, no matter where they live, has access to the medications they need, as they do right now with hospitals and doctors,” he continued.


Canada has the key to lowering drug prices. Here’s why it won’t be used any time soon

Kelly Crowe · CBC News · Nov 24, 2018
The federal government has developed a series of regulations that would lower Canada’s patented drug prices, which are among the highest in the world. Canada is second only to the United States in per capita drug costs. But the new rules were like a gauntlet thrown down in the path of the pharmaceutical industry, which has been lobbying federal government officials ever since.
“Drug companies understand very well what’s at stake, and they’re massively mobilizing to make sure nothing happens,” said Marc-André Gagnon, a pharmaceutical policy researcher at Carleton University.


Universal Pharmacare and Federalism
Colleen M. Flood, Bryan Thomas, Asad Ali Moten and Patrick Fafard
Sept 12, 2018
Canada is the only OECD country with universal health insurance that does not include coverage of prescription pharmaceuticals. Some provinces have taken steps to provide drug insurance coverage for the poor, the elderly and people facing catastrophic costs (there are some 70 drug funding programs across the country). However, access to essential medicines depends on factors such as age, medical condition, income and province of residence. It is estimated that approximately 20 percent of Canadians have no drug insurance.


(Similkameen Spotlight) Too many Canadians can’t afford their medication
SOHC (Support Our Health Care) – Letter to the Editor


Pharma companies could be forced to reveal payments to B.C. doctors
Bethany Lindsay – Jun 25, 2018 5:15
B.C. could soon require drug companies to reveal any payments they make to doctors and other health professionals in an attempt to be transparent about any potential conflicts of interest. If it goes ahead, the province’s proposed health sector payment transparency program would cover payments and services handed out by pharmaceutical companies and equipment manufacturers.
“I think what it does is it puts the patient more at the centre of health care, so the patient has knowledge and responsibility,” Health Minister Adrian Dix told CBC.


Government adds pharmacists into primary and community care
June 5, 2018
The Ministry of Health is adding 50 new clinical pharmacists as part of primary-care network teams around the province. The ministry is supporting this new developmental program, with $23 million over three years, and is working with University of British Columbia’s faculty of pharmaceutical sciences to manage the program.


Cities & States Sue Big Pharma Targeting the Firms who Profited from Peddling Addictive Opioids 
Democracy Now – June 01, 2018 New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced earlier this year that the city would sue manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids to account for their part in the city’s ongoing deadly opioid epidemic. Firms named in the suit include Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson and McKesson Corporation. 


All Canadians deserve pharmacare, not just MPs
The Star – Feb. 10, 2018
The MPs mulling options for publicly funding medications will take their sweet time. There is no rush for them because they already have the type of publicly funded access that is being contemplated for other Canadians. While about 3 million Canadians do not take medications as directed because of the cost, MPs and other lawmakers enjoy platinum medication plans for themselves and their families.