Canadian Medical Association

CMA updates policy to push for universal coverage of 125 essential medicines

Prescribing medications is a part of almost every physician’s practice. And when patients can’t afford their medications, it impacts their health and their care.

For decades, the CMA has been advocating to make prescription drugs more affordable for Canadians. And over the past year, this discussion has been ramping up at the federal level, with the government undertaking a series of studies and consultations on the feasibility of a national pharmacare program.

Earlier this year, the CMA turned to its members to find out more about their experiences prescribing, and the affordability of medications for their patients. The results were telling.

This participants in the CMA Member Voice e-Panel survey indicated that ability to pay is a barrier for many Canadians, with 7 in 10 respondents reporting that they frequently ask patients about their level of drug coverage. For many patients without drug coverage, the high cost of medication can make it hard to follow treatment plans: survey feedback showed that many are either skipping doses (43% of respondents) or not filling their prescriptions at all (46% of respondents).

As one respondent shared: “I am tired of the mix of systems and the consequent ‘holes in the swiss cheese’ that seem to result in patients failing through the cracks of the system. If we are going to bother with a pharmacare system, then ‘go big or go home’ — make it national, reasonable and simple.”

The CMA has drafted a new policy to reflect the feedback received and to address members’ concerns with coverage issues and affordability. One of its key recommendations is to the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare – that they explore the feasibility of the federal government funding universal coverage of a list of 125 essential medicines, as a start. At the same time, the CMA will keep calling for improved access to more medically necessary prescription drugs for Canadians, regardless of their ability to pay.

The CMA will be sharing this updated policy with the federal government and with the advisory council, chaired by Dr. Eric Hoskins. Once the council’s report and recommendations are released in 2019, the CMA expects to seek further member feedback, and to work to ensure the issue remains on the public policy agenda for government. ​

Not a member of the CMA Member Voice e-Panel? Join now to help guide our work by answering 4-6 short surveys a year on professional issues, clinical products and services, and health policies.

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