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Pharmaceutical issues

The CMA is involved in pharmaceutical issues through policy development, submissions to government, educational initiatives and interactions with health care providers and consumer groups.

CMA position

The CMA believes prescription drugs are a vital part of Canadian health care, and that Canadians should have access to medically necessary pharmaceuticals that are:

  • safe and effective
  • available when and where they are needed
  • available at reasonable cost

Comprehensive drug coverage for all

Prescription drugs made up about 16% of total health care expenditures in 2012. Canadians spent almost $23 billion on drugs in 2012-13, according to the Canadian Rx Atlas. The public sector pays nearly half of Canadians' drug expenses, but provincial and territorial coverage varies, and many Canadians lack coverage for needed medications.

No Canadian should be deprived of medically necessary drugs because of inability to pay. The CMA recommends that governments, in consultation with the life and health insurance industry and the public, establish a program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage. This would be administered through reimbursement of provincial, territorial and private prescription drug plans to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary therapies.

Ensuring that drugs are safe and effective

The CMA recommends that Canada rely on a strong, unbiased, evidence-based system for researching and approving new products. This system should also assess whether new offerings improve health outcomes and improve on products currently on the market. Once approved, drugs should be subject to strong, rigorous monitoring of their safety.

Promoting optimal prescribing

The CMA recommends a national strategy to promote best practices in prescribing. These should include the provision of relevant, objective and easily accessible information for prescribers, which can be readily incorporated into everyday practice. This strategy would also include accurate, unbiased information on prescription drugs for patients and the public.

Minimizing the impact of drug shortages

Drug shortages are having a detrimental impact on health care delivery across Canada. The CMA has advocated for a thorough examination of the drug supply system to identify points where supply problems can be corrected. Solutions will need to involve the entire supply chain, from manufacturers through to health care providers and all levels of government.

The CMA has participated in a multi-stakeholder steering committee on drug shortages. This committee in 2013 released a toolkit that describes the Canadian drug supply chain, clarifies roles and responsibilities of key players and identifies the tools and strategies available to address drug shortages at specific stages.

The committee also prepared a protocol for the notification and communication of drug shortages. It sets out clear expectations, principles and processes for how and when stakeholders across the supply chain share information in anticipation of or in response to a drug shortage.

The Canadian Drug Shortage Database allows drug companies to voluntarily report shortages. The database includes the name of drug, strength, dosage form, package size, DIN, company, estimated resupply date and date of update. Health care professionals are encouraged to subscribe to the database’s email alerts about ongoing and new drug shortages.
How drug shortages affect doctors, patients