“Today’s release of the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare interim report was thin on details but it is a good first step in establishing a foundation for the implementation of what Friends of Medicare hopes to see become a universal, single-payer pharmacare program,” says Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare.
Since the creation of the Advisory Council, which was tasked to create a blueprint for what the national pharmacare program would look like, the Council has conducted cross-country consultations, received 150 written submissions and over 15,000 responses to an online questionnaire. Almost all Canadians who participated indicated that the status quo patchwork of public and private drug plans is simply unacceptable.
During today’s press conference, Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas-Taylor indicted that the current system of drug coverage leaves over one million Canadians having to make choices between giving up food or paying for their utilities in order to afford their medications. The report said the system “is neither adequate nor sustainable over the long-term and leaves too many Canadians behind.”
The Council’s interim report recommends that Canada: Create a national drug agency, which would be responsible for developing an evidenced-based drug list and manage the national formulary, or list of covered drugs; develop a comprehensive, evidence-based national formulary; and, invest in drug data and information technology systems.
Of interest to note is that the report says that any pharmacare plan should adhere to a list of core principles that reflect the principles outlined in the Canada Health Act. These principles also share similarities with the Pharmacare Consensus Principles that FOM has signed on to. This gives us hope that the final report released by the Advisory Council will result in Canadians finally seeing the first expansion to our public health care system since the inception of Medicare.
The Council's core principles for a national pharmacare direct that national pharmacare must:
- Ensure that all Canadian residents have access to prescription drugs based on medical need, without financial or other barriers to access.
- Ensure that coverage is portable and consistent across all jurisdictions.
- Provide access to a comprehensive, evidence-based formulary, with special consideration for drugs for rare diseases.
- Be designed and delivered in partnership with patients and citizens.
- Be founded on strong partnership between federal, provincial and territorial governments and Indigenous peoples.
- Include a robust pharmaceutical management system that promotes safety, innovation, value-for-money and the sustainability of prescription drug costs.
Friends of Medicare, along with our allies on both the local and national levels, have been working for decades to advocate for the need for a universal pharmacare program. The Advisory Council’s interim report gives us encouragement that we may finally see a national public drug program for all Canadians when the final report is released this spring. “Every study over the last 50 years has recommended we do this," states Azocar. "It is time to act now, once the plan is in place we’ll wonder why it took so long and we hadn’t done it sooner.”
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