Canadian Medical Association

In a July 2018 e-Panel survey, members of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) were asked to pick one of three options for a national prescription drug program. 57% choose a single, national, public pharmacare plan operated by the federal government and funded by federal taxes. Less than one year later, the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare has released its final report with virtually the same recommendation.

In the report, released June 12, the council is recommending the creation of a universal, single-payer public pharmacare program, with a low co-payment — a model that’s been successfully implemented in other countries. On average, the proposed plan could help Canadian families save around $350 a year.

The work of the council represents a crucial step forward to ensuring that Canada’s health care model delivers on its promise of universality. We hope this report will become a roadmap for providing Canadians with universal access to essential medicines. — Dr. Gigi Osler, CMA president

The council — struck by the federal government in 2018 — was tasked with developing a possible plan for pharmacare in Canada. They’ve spent the past year reviewing existing domestic and international models and seeking feedback from the public on what a Canadian program could look like. Tens of thousands of individuals and organizations weighed in, including the CMA.

The CMA’s submission to the advisory council outlined what many physicians were reporting: the high cost of medication was making it difficult for patients without drug coverage to follow treatment plans. In the survey last year, CMA members revealed that many of their patients were either skipping doses (43% of respondents) or not filling their prescriptions at all (46% of respondents) because of cost.

Moving forward, the report is calling on the federal government to work with the provinces and territories to create an initial list — by Jan. 1, 2022 — of essential medicines that would be covered under the program. This plan closely reflects recommendations made in the CMA’s submission. The council’s final goal is to have a comprehensive system in place by 2027.

As the CMA looks to put health back on the national agenda in this fall’s federal election, the association is now calling for all parties to include pharmacare as part of their health platform — to help Canadians get access to the medication they need, regardless of their ability to pay.

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