2020 Live Episode 15: In Conversation with the Minister of Health, Ginette Petitpas Taylor

2020Network - Horizontal - Black

“Canadians are proud of their healthcare system and we don’t need polls to tell us that…Yet we are not blind to our system’s fault, and one big fault is the access to prescription medication.”

Hon. Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health, joins Alex Paterson in the Canada 2020 studio to discuss the future of Canada’s pharmacare plan just months before the release of the Pharmacare Advisory Council’s final report. The report will include specific recommendations on the program’s design and delivery. Listen to hear Minister Petitpas Taylor take questions from a live studio audience about the scope, shape, and goals of a national pharmacare plan.

Subscribe: Apple PodcastsSoundcloudGoogle Play

Canada 2020 National Pharmacare Policy Lab

National Pharmacare Initiative

Reports on Findings and Resolutions

Download PDF here: National Pharmacare – Report on Findings and Resolutions
Further Reading: Resource Library 

Executive Summary

On May 29th, Canada 2020 convened a five-hour policy lab on National Pharmacare, in response to the government’s Budget 2018 commitment to create an Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare. In the Budget, the government cites the high costs of drugs and the statistic that one in ten Canadians cannot afford the prescription drugs they need as reasons why a National Pharmacare plan is needed.
The Policy Lab brought together 42 stakeholders and experts from government, academia, and industry to share information and resources on the topic of National Pharmacare. The discussion was held in camera and participants collaboratively designed a set of resolutions. A lively discussion and debate took place to determine which of the resolutions had a broad consensus of support. For resolutions that lacked a broad consensus, Canada 2020 noted these as issues to resolve and summarized the debate that took place in the room.
At the end of this document, we have attached a backgrounder on National Pharmacare that describes the current Canadian research on the issue.

Areas of Consensus

At the end of the session the attendees identified several broad areas of consensus through a voting process.

1.  National Pharmacare should ensure Canadians have consistent, equitable, timely and fiscally sustainable access to a formulary of prescription drugs reviewed according to clinical, economic and patient-centered principles.

2. National Pharmacare should be able to optimize spending and administration to improve health outcomes and quality of life.

3. National Pharmacare should address the problems of coverage and lack of access to prescription drugs.

4. National Pharmacare administrators need to work hand-in-hand with all relevant stakeholders to set, monitor and analyze outcomes.

5. National Pharmacare should be structured such that it is future-oriented, anticipating changes and challenges.

6. National Pharmacare should allow for public-payers to top-up a national, mandatory standard.

7. National Pharmacare should not lead to businesses eliminating extended health and dental plans.

8.National Pharmacare should be portable and consistent when Canadians change residency, move, or visit other provinces and territories.

9.National Pharmacare should be economically and fiscally sustainable.

10.National Pharmacare should ensure that any co-pays or deductibles should not act as a barrier to use of care.

Issues to Resolve

During the session, participants created several resolutions that failed to receive broad consensus. We have reframed these resolutions as open-ended questions and summarized the debate that occurred in the room.

1. Should the National Pharmacare Initiative assure appropriate access to innovative medicine or technologies?

Some participants believed that national pharmacare should not be an ‘open bar’ for drugs, that is it should not be used as a platform for all drugs to enter the market. Furthermore, they felt it should not encourage unnecessary and unproven new medicines to enter the market. Alternatively, another set of  participants worried that a poorly implemented national pharmacare, which focused on “preventing unnecessary and unproven new medicines entering the market” could prevent access to valuable and innovative medicines or technologies.  They believed that the focus should be allowing patients to access a wider range of medicines or reducing side effects. There were concerns raised that the implementation of national pharmacare could delay the introduction of some pharmaceutical products into the Canadian market. There was consensus that access to innovative medicines should not worsen from the current situation; the debate was on how to structure pharmacare such that this would not happen.

2. Should National Pharmacare lead to a lowest common denominator formulary?

Some participants argued that the formulary, either by design or by accident, could become a “lowest common denominator,” limiting access to certain drugs. One example given was the case of Australia, where citizens have to travel to different countries to gain access to different medicines that may not be on the formulary, as the formulary is set out to cover only certain drugs.  Any drug that is not present on the formulary will not be covered by the Australian Government.  Many participants believed that the registry should be able to respond to individual patient needs, that is if a patient were to benefit from a different drug that is not on the formulary they could still get covered by the pharmacare plan in place, however, others felt this could make the program cost prohibitive.

3. Should a National Pharmacare plan prioritize the needs of Canadians, beginning with the under-insured, indigenous communities, and those who require catastrophic drug coverage?

Participants liked this idea in theory, but worried that in practice it may be difficult to address specifically what needs to be prioritized and who should be the targeted groups.  Some participants worried that a prioritization approach could cause people outside the targeted groups wouldn’t immediately benefit from coverage, whereas others felt that it was important to prioritize the biggest needs.

4. Should National Pharmacare lead to improved practices from prescribers to patient to prevent and reduce the inappropriate use and/or need for drugs?

The participants did not disagree with the premise, but there was disagreement on where the emphasis should be placed. There was near consensus that reducing dependence on drugs of patients should be a priority, though there were concerns that such a focus may cause those needing pharmaceuticals to stop taking them. There was significant consensus in the room that that there should also be a focus towards non-drug technology and improved accountability for prescribers.  There was also discussion on the fact that there should be a focus towards non-drug health-care solutions that the pharmacare initiative could end up crowding out. A big point of debate was in what the “improved practices” would be, who would be accountable, and what measures would be put in place to judge effectiveness.

Backgrounder on National Pharmacare

The federal government’s 2018 budget calls for an Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare:

Canadians are proud of our publicly funded, universal medicare system which is based on need and not on ability to pay. Yet, we know that at least one in ten Canadians cannot afford the prescription drugs they need. Every year, almost one million Canadians give up food and heat to afford medicines. And those who can pay for their drugs face some of the highest costs among the world’s most advanced countries. The unaffordability of many medications leads to Canadians being less healthy, with significantly higher health care costs for us all.

The Government has demonstrated its commitment to improving access to necessary prescription medications, by taking concrete steps to lower drug prices, streamline regulatory processes for drug approval, support better prescribing practices and explore a national drug formulary. These steps will significantly improve the accessibility and affordability of prescription medications, but there is an opportunity to do even more.

As part of Budget 2018, the Government is announcing the creation of an Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare. We are appointing Dr. Eric Hoskins, who recently served as the Minister of Health of Ontario, to chair this initiative. He and board members will begin a national dialogue that will include working closely with experts from all relevant fields as well as with national, provincial, territorial and Indigenous leaders. The Advisory Council will report to the federal Minister of Health and the Minister of Finance and will conduct an economic and social assessment of domestic and international models, and will recommend options on how to move forward together on this important subject.

In order to assist Dr. Hoskins with this initiative, the Canada 2020 Policy Lab will examine National Pharmacare from three broad themes, taking the Ontario Government’s Ministers’ Roundtable on Pan-Canadian Pharmacare as an inspiration. Their report developed a set of “Areas of Broad Consensus” and “Issues to Resolve”. We have taken this set, divided them into three broad themes, and will use them as a starting point in our discussion.
Theme 1: What is National Pharmacare meant to accomplish? What are the primary problems it is trying to solve? 
In order to develop sensible policy, we must know what problems we are trying to solve. The Ontario initiative adopted the following resolutions as areas of broad consensus:

  • There are too many Canadians who have either no coverage for prescription drugs or insufficient coverage.
  • We could spend less on prescription drugs in Canada and get the same or better value.
  • Without substantial policy reform, the current situation could get worse.
  • A good pharmacare plan would focus not just on providing coverage to the entire population but also on improving the quality of prescribing
  • The goals of pharmacare should be a program that produces better health, at lower total cost than we currently spend, and that provides a good experience for patients

Are these still valid from a federal perspective? Are there others we should be considering? What does a National Pharmacare success look like? How can we measure that success, in terms of both inputs and outputs?
Theme 2: What are the potential unintended consequences from a system of National Pharmacare? How can a system be designed to reduce the severity of those consequences and/or reduce the likelihood that they occur? 
The Ontario initiative developed two areas of consensus on this theme:

  • We do not want a poor pharmacare plan – for example, one that provides “universal” coverage but where patients still cannot afford to take their medications, or one where costs continue to increase at the rate they have over the past 15 years
  • The development of a good pharmacare program would require ongoing evaluation and refinement

Along with an issue to be resolved:

  • What will the reaction to pharmacare be from the public and from employers?

Are there other areas of consensus we can develop when it comes to mitigating unintended consequences from national pharmacare? What are the biggest unintended consequences we should concern ourselves with? Opioid addiction? Antibiotic resistance? Others?
Theme 3: How should a National Pharmacare program be structured? 
The Ontario initiative developed a single area of broad consensus in this area:

  • Decisions about which drugs should be paid for publicly should be based on evidence and de-politicized to the extent possible

Along with several issues to resolve:

  • Should a pharmacare program be “first dollar,” or should there be some private contribution? If the latter, what should that look like?
  • How should those interested in developing a pharmacare program engage with the private health insurance, pharmacy, and pharmaceutical sectors?
  • Should the development of pharmacare proceed in an incremental fashion, or would it be better to proceed with a “Big Bang” approach?
  • Is federal government participation necessary for the development of pharmacare?

Are there other resolutions that we can develop in this area that can receive broad consensus? How can we resolve our outstanding issues? Should a national pharmacare initiative be a part of broader set of innovations to the Canada Health Act? If so, what could those Canada Health Act reforms look like?


We have compiled a resource library of studies and other useful literature in a separate document. Below are a few highlights from those resources that should help motivate the discussion.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) was asked by the house standing committee on health to calculate the cost of national pharmacare program. Their program design incorporated the following features:

  • Be a universal plan
  • Replace existing public and private drug plans
  • Use the Quebec Medications List as the national formulary
  •  Require a $5 co-payment for all prescriptions of brand-name drugs, with exemptions for the following:
    •  Individuals aged 15 and under;
    • Students aged 16-18;
    • Individuals aged 65 and over;
    • Pregnant women;
    • Physically disabled;
    • Recipients of Employment Insurance and their dependents; and,
    • Recipients of welfare or social assistance and their dependents.

The PBO summarized their findings as follows:

While there is a range of prescription rates for generics across Canadian provinces, the mean Canadian value is assumed to be most representative as it reflects existing prescribing practices among doctors and pharmacists.

Roughly 84 million prescriptions would require the $5 payment, for a total out-of-pocket expense of roughly $420 million.

The out-of-pocket expenses for patients under the new national Pharmacare framework would be about 90 per cent lower compared to the existing regime.

PBO applied this calculation separately for prescriptions that are exempt from a $5 co-payment and prescriptions facing the co-payment.

The PBO concluded that:

PBO estimates this Pharmacare program would have cost the federal government $20.4 billion if it had been implemented in 2015-16, or 83 per cent of actual 2015-16 drug expenditure for pharmaceuticals listed on the RAMQ formulary.

After taking into account the $397 million in revenues from a $5 co-payment, net of exemptions, and the current $645 million the federal government spends on pharmaceuticals, the total net federal cost is an estimated $19.3 billion. These values include total markups and professional fees.

The results indicate that the total cost of Pharmacare will reduce the estimated expenditure on the same pool of drugs (that is, those listed on the RAMQ formulary).

Similarly, the CMAJ attempted to estimate the cost of universal public coverage of prescription drugs in Canada. They found such a program would reduce total spending on prescription drugs by $7.3 billion. The private sector would save $8.2 billion. Government spending would increase by $1 billion.
The national pharmacare issue was also examined by the House’s Standing Committee on Health, which issued their Pharmacare Now report, which developed the following five recommendations:

Recommendation 1 : That the Government of Canada work in collaboration with provinces and territories, health care providers, patients and Indigenous communities to develop a common voluntary national prescription drug formulary.

Recommendation 2: That the Government of Canada amend the Canada Health Act to include drugs prescribed by a licensed health care practitioner and dispensed outside of hospitals in accordance with a common voluntary national formulary, as part of the definition of an “insured health service” under the Act.

Recommendation 3: That the Government of Canada provide additional funding to provinces and territories through the Canada Health Transfer to support the inclusion of prescription drugs dispensed outside of hospitals as an insured service under provincial and territorial public health insurance programs under the Canada Health Act.

Recommendation 4: That the Government of Canada undertake consultations with employers, unions, private plans and Canadians at large to identify possible approaches towards financing the expansion of the Canada Health Act to include prescription drugs dispensed outside of hospitals as an insured service.

Recommendation 5: That the Government of Canada undertake consultations with First Nations and Inuit communities to determine whether it is their preference to obtain prescription drug coverage under the Canada Health Act or through the NonInsured Health Benefits Program, with the ultimate goal of recognizing the authority of First Nations and Inuit peoples in providing health services to their communities.

International Experience 

Each country of the world deals with the issue of pharmacare differently. Here are three examples, quoted directly from the Pharmacare Now report.


…the Therapeutic Goods Administration is responsible for assessing drugs for efficacy, quality and safety. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee then makes evidence-based recommendations to the federal minister of health about which drugs should be listed on the national evidenced-based drug formulary and provides advice on the price at which the drug represents value for money. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Pricing Authority negotiates drug prices based upon recommendations from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. Once this negotiation is complete, the Minister adds the drug to the national formulary. A national prescribing service also provides education to family physicians regarding the use of medications.


Sweden provides universal drug coverage to its residents through the National Drug Benefits Scheme, which is financed through general taxation.
Levels of reimbursement are determined at the national level and are based upon the Act on Pharmaceutical Benefits, which outlines the three main principles of the program: the human value principle, the need and solidarity principle and the cost-effectiveness principle. Under the scheme, individuals cover the full costs of prescription drugs until they reach an annual threshold amount, after which they contribute co-payments until they reach a maximum annual out-of-pocket payment cap of SEK 2,200 (C$341) per year in 2017.


…in the Netherlands, individuals are required by law to purchase private health insurance, but a minimum basket of services provided is established through legislation. Therefore, all private insurances companies must provide the same broad health benefits package, which includes coverage for prescription pharmaceutical drugs. Out-of-pocket payments are capped annually at approximately C$574, including copayments for pharmaceuticals. He explained that though maximum out-of pocket payments in the Netherlands are relatively low, it is important to have mechanisms in place for individuals who cannot afford them to ensure that people take their medications

National Pharmacare Initiative Policy Lab Resource Library

Download PDF here: National Pharmacare – Resource Libary
Further Reading: Report on Findings and Resolutions

Pharmacare Policy Lab Resource Library

Let’s talk about the patients the pharmacare debate has forgotten (blog)

AUTHOR: Adam Kassam
Kassam argues that rehabilitation patients are not included in the conversation and that pharmacare recommendations are ill-fitted for rehabilitation patients.  The pharmacare debate is very strongly centered around medication, but the author suggests that rehabilitation is just as integral and should be part of the conversation.  In short, the author suggests that the national pharmacare plan should include drugs as well as non-pharmacologic options to improve the overall quality of life for all Canadians.

The Council of Canadians Acting for Social Justice – Pharmacare

AUTHOR: The Council of Canadians
In 2016, Canadians spent $30 billion on over 600 million prescriptions.  Many Canadians are forced to choose between paying for their prescription or rent and food.  The Council advocates for pharmacare, specifically a universal drug coverage program, to provide all Canadians with access to drugs they need.  Pharmacare would also mean that Canadian employers would not have to pay for insurance packages for their employees.

Federal Cost of a National Pharmacare Program

AUTHOR: Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer
The PBO finds that Canadians spend on average 28.5 billion dollars a year on prescription drugs.  This cost is borne by a combination of public and private payers.   Currently, the federal government’s role in pharmacare is largely regulatory based.  Health Canada is the federal department in charge of approving new pharmaceutical sales in Canada.  The Patented Medicine Prices Review Board ensures that patented drug prices are not excessive.  Provinces oversee covering drugs and medical services.  This review varies from province to province as each province covers different drugs.  For instance, Quebec covers about 79% of prescription drugs as being paid by public funds whereas Alberta covers around 99%.  The PBO predicts that universal drug coverage would decrease the price of medicine in Canada and would also lead to a behavioural change.  The PBO believes that Canadians would adhere to their drug plans leading to increased consumption.  The PBO estimates the net federal cost of pharmacare is estimated to be $19.3 billion.  They further estimate that Canadian spending on drugs will decrease by 17.1% while the number of prescribed drugs will increase by 10.9%.

Why your pharmacist can’t tell you that $20 prescription could cost you only $8.

AUTHOR: Robert Pear
The article outlines that many pharmacists are facing ‘gag clauses’ that are preventing them from informing customers on lower drug prices if they paid cash instead of using their health insurance.    Elected officials have either implemented or are implementing legislation to stop these practices that force customers to pay more for their prescription drugs.

Good governance and decision-making on drug coverage

AUTHORS: John Adams, Nigel Rawson
This article outlines the role of the CADTH (Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health) which is to provide decision makers with evidence to decide the best use of drugs.  However, according to the authors these decisions limit access of Canadians to innovative life-saving medicines.  They argue that the CADTH does not follow good governance principles and in turn affect Canadian lives.  Their review process delays access to drugs and limits what is covered in public plans.

Estimated cost of universal public coverage of prescription drugs in Canada

AUTHORS: Steven G. Morgan, Michael Law, Jamie R. Daw, Liza Abraham and Danielle Martin
The CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) estimates that universal public coverage of prescription drugs in Canada would reduce total spending on prescription drugs by $7.3 billion.  The private sector would save $8.2 billion.  Government spending would increase by $1 billion.  There have been many recommendations over the years to encourage the government to implement coverage of prescription drugs.  Currently, the federal drug plans cover First Nations and other targeted groups.  Most other coverage comes from the provinces or out-of-pocket.  Employers and Unions would save as they would no longer have to provide health coverage for their employees.  The CMAJ proposes to use the savings generated through the single-payer system to invest in research and development.

Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare

AUTHOR: World Economic Forum
The WEF examines how to provide affordable quality healthcare to the 2050 world of 9.7 billion people.  The WEF poses interesting questions such as: What is considered basic care? Should prevention be considered? Or maintenance of health?

Rethinking Pharmacare in Canada

AUTHORS: Steven G. Morgan, Jamie R. Daw and Michael R. Law
The authors conclude that provincial pharmacare coverage should be expanded to include all Canadians regardless of income, age or employment and should cover medicine with proven value.  Canada has a universal public health insurance program but does not cover prescription medicine.  The commentary also recommends a single-payer approach to pharmacare. The authors argue that single-payer would simplify the system for Canadians and make it less costly on the administrative side.  If Canada were to offer universal health coverage for medically necessary prescription drugs with little to no patient charges, they believe it could lead to lower health spending elsewhere.  The authors state that the UK pays less for prescription drugs (per capita) and yet has a higher rate of investment in research and development than Canada.  The authors’ two main recommendations are as follows:

The policy challenge is therefore to build incrementally toward the system that we know will provide greater access, financial protection and efficiency: a universal system of pharmacare that is comparable to and integrated with the other elements of medicare. Steps in that direction might include universal coverage for drugs with known value propositions in terms of reduced public spending on hospitals – such as universal coverage for cost-effective cardiovascular medicines (Dhalla, Smith et al. 2009; Choudhry, Avorn et al. 2011). Another option might include universal first-dollar coverage of generic medicines acquired under tendering processes – in provinces or nationally – that could save enough money to render the expansion of coverage revenue neutral to government (Morgan, Hanley et al. 2007; Law and Morgan 2011).

The Economic Case for Universal Pharmacare

AUTHORS: Marc-André Gagnon with the assistance of Guillaume Hébert
The authors argue that current drug insurance plans are economically inefficient, which they illustrate by comparing Canada to other OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. The authors state that Canadians spend more per capita on drugs than anywhere else and that our public plans lack in coverage and do not cover a large part of the Canadian population.  They believe that Canadians are not getting enough in return for the money given to the biopharmaceutical industry.  The authors argue that if Canada were to adopt a universal pharmacare program with first-dollar coverage it would lead to $3 billion in savings if all other biopharmaceutical policies remained the same.  If, instead, those policies were to be changed to be closer to the OECD countries, Canadians would save around $4.5 billion. They conclude that a national pharmacare program will need to strike a balance between federal and provincial jurisdictions as health policies are in the provincial jurisdiction.

Universal Pharmacare & oral health care for adults and seniors living with low income

AUTHOR: Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario
The Nurses’ Association believes that universal pharmacare and oral health care are universal human rights; these are currently not guaranteed as human rights in Canada.  In their view, the lack of universal pharmacare leads to low-income Canadians having to pay out of pocket or go without medication or simply having to sacrifice basic necessities to pay for prescription drugs.  RNAO would like to see oral health included in a universal pharmacare coverage.

National Pharmaceuticals Strategy

AUTHOR: Federal/provincial/territorial ministerial task force
This is the national pharmaceutical strategy progress report from 2006.  Pharmaceutical management can be summarized in themes: access, safety, effectiveness and appropriate use, and system sustainability.  Access to pharmaceuticals is highly dependent on where people live.  Provinces have to make choices to decide what is covered or not by public coverage.  Pre-market testing is not accurate enough and decision makers need access to more unbiased and accurate information.  Public funds need to be spent efficiently, as this would encourage competition and reduce prices for Canadians.

The Future of Drug Coverage in Canada

AUTHORS:  Steven G. Morgan, Danielle Martin, Marc-André Gagnon, Barbara Mintzes, Jamie R. Daw, Joel Lexchin.
Canada has a medicare system, but it does not cover prescribed medicine outside of hospitals.  Current coverage is a mix of public and private coverage, meaning that Canadians across the country have different access to basic prescribed drugs.  Many Canadians do not have any medical insurance, leaving them uninsured and forcing them to pay out of pocket.  The report encompasses 4 key pillars to an effective pharmacare plan in Canada: access, fairness, safety, and value for money, based on the following principles

All Canadians should have equitable access to medically necessary prescription drugs.

No individual or group should be financially disadvantaged by their health needs.

Prescription drugs should only be funded, prescribed and used in accordance with the best available evidence concerning risks and benefits.

The cost of medicines should be managed to achieve maximum value for money from the perspective of Canadian society.

The report outlines how provinces can act quickly by negotiating patent drug prices and setting a price ceiling on generic drugs.  It is in their jurisdiction and they have the capabilities to act quickly; and this would benefit provincial health benefits greatly.
Their final recommendation is for a fully implemented Pharmacare: a public drug plan that is universal, comprehensive, evidence-based and sustainable, by 2020.
They conclude that there needs to be two sustainable systems working simultaneously. The current medicare system and a public pharmacare program.  This would ensure fair access to necessary health care providers and medicine for all Canadians.

A lesson from abroad – healthcare lessons from Australia

AUTHOR: Nadeem Esmail
In Australia, the federal government funds ambulatory and outpatient care through ‘Medicare Australia’.  State-level governments, on the other hand, regulate health care providers and fund hospital care.  One recommendation made by this report is that there should be a cost-sharing scheme for universally accessible health care, with some limits in place, but these limits should not affect low-income Canadians.

Universal prescription drug coverage in Canada:  long-promised yet undelivered

AUTHOR: Steve G. Morgan, Katherine Boothe
According to the authors, one in ten Canadians cannot afford to fill their prescriptions and our per-capita expenditure for pharmaceuticals is among the highest of OECD countries with universal health converge.  The Canadian government provides coverage for a very small portion of the population, indigenous people and veterans; this contributes to 2% of our total drug expenditure.  This paper also describes the barriers in place that have been preventing the effective implementation of pharmacare in Canada.  The first being that the federal government lacks jurisdiction so there needs to be a high degree of cooperation between provincial and federal governments.  The second barrier is the fact that within governing parties members have different views on pharmacare.

Understanding the gap – a pan Canadian analysis of prescription drug insurance coverage

AUTHORS: Greg Sutherland and Thy Dinh
About 5.2% of Canadians live without drug coverage.  About 4.1 million Canadians can get insured through public coverage but have not enrolled.  This could be for many reasons.  First, it could be because they do not require coverage, or they are comfortable paying out of pocket.  It could also be a result of lack of awareness of the eligibility criteria or how to enroll.  The authors argue that of the 8.5 million Canadians who solely rely on public coverage, it seems that only a small percentage feel the financial burden of having to pay out of pocket for what is not covered by public plans.  There are currently 22.5 million Canadians enrolled in private insurance. Most of them also benefit from cost sharing.  Some provinces have public coverage that requires their population to pay more for an expansive drug plan than private insurance would.  According to the Nanos survey 0.5% of Canadians say that they face hardship when having to pay for medicine due to cost.

Myth buster: A national drug plan

AUTHOR: Canadian Health Coalition
According to the CHC, if the federal government were to pay for the cost of medication for provinces, employers and taxpayers, the cost of ensuring medication for everyone would be around $11.5 billion per year.  The CHC also makes the argument that workers would be more inclined to change jobs as they would not fear losing their insurance if Canada had a national pharmacare plan.  They argue that Canada could increase its amount of research and development, which is currently lower than the UK and New Zealand who have universal drug coverage.

The consequences of patient charges for prescription drugs in Canada: a cross-sectional survey

AUTHOR: Law, MR et. al.
The authors find that “5.5% (95% confidence interval 5.1%-6.0%) of Canadians reported being unable to afford 1 or more drugs in the prior year, representing 8.2% of those with at least 1 prescription. Drugs for mental health conditions were the most commonly reported drug class for cost-related nonadherence. About 303 000 Canadians had additional doctor visits, about 93 000 sought care in the emergency department, and about 26 000 were admitted to hospital at the population level. Many Canadians forewent basic needs such as food (about 730 000 people), heat (about 238 000) and other health care expenses (about 239 000) because of drug costs. These outcomes were more common among females, younger adults, Aboriginal peoples, those with poorer health status, those lacking drug insurance and those with lower income.”

Canada 2020 Policy Lab: The National Pharmacare Initiative

Pharma Policy Lab

Canada 2020 will be hosting a Policy Lab on National Pharmacare Initiative on Thursday, May 29th 2018  in the Canada 2020 Studio in Ottawa.

On May 29th, Canada 2020 is convening a full-day session on National Pharmacare, in response to the government’s Budget 2018 commitment to create an Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare. In the Budget, the government cites the high costs of drugs and the statistic that one in ten Canadians cannot afford the prescription drugs they need as reasons why a National Pharmacare plan is needed.
The Canada 2020 Policy Lab will help us think through a number of issues and opportunities surrounding National Pharmacare, with particular emphasis on:

  • What are the major bottlenecks in implementing National Pharmacare? How can these bottlenecks be addressed? Are there any risks of “catastrophic” implementation failure, and how can these risks be reduced?
  • How can the federal government best work with other stakeholders, including (but not limited to) provincial, territorial and Indigenous leaders, private insurers and the pharmaceutical industry in designing and implementing a National Pharmacare program?
  • What international models should the government consider (and avoid) if they choose to implement National Pharmacare?

To learn more about Canada 2020 Policy Labs, click here.
To apply to be a part of the Canada 2020 Policy Lab on National Pharmacare Initiative, click below: