Perspectives on Canadian Pharmacare

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Lydia LanmanToday’s blog comes from Lydia Lanman, Senior Manager, Policy and Government Relations at Eli Lilly Canada.

National pharmacare in Canada is the topic on the minds of many Canadians right now. But this issue is far from new — in fact, we’ve been having this debate as a nation for over 50 years.

In 1964, the Hall Commission proposed a 50/50 cost sharing model between the federal and provincial governments towards the development of a prescription drug program. Since then, various governments and stakeholders have studied, discussed, and proposed models for national pharmacare.

The same questions posed over 50 years ago persist today: Who should pharmacare cover? What should it cover? How should it be delivered? How should it be financed? Should patients pay some share? Should employers pay?

These issues have always been challenging to address, and have become even more difficult in light of the increased demands and complexity of healthcare and the advances in pharmaceutical treatments.

While Canada doesn’t have a national pharmacare program, there is good news. Most Canadians have coverage for the pharmaceutical treatments that they need. A study conducted by the Conference Board of Canada concludes that 95% of Canadians — more than 34 million — are eligible for some form of prescription drug coverage.

However, some Canadians still struggle to access needed medicines either because they lack drug coverage, or cannot afford co-payments. Addressing these gaps faced by uninsured and underinsured Canadians should be the focus of the pharmacare debate in Canada. And, because this is a complex problem to tackle, it will take collaboration among multiple stakeholders to find a sustainable solution that ensures Canadians can continue to get access to the medicines that they need.

The Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare is currently leading a consultation on this issue. This consultation provides an opportunity to take a closer look at the pharmaceutical coverage gap in Canada, and to ask meaningful questions on what addressing that gap could and should look like.

Over the coming weeks, we will discuss pharmaceutical coverage in Canada, take a deeper look at the coverage gaps that exist, and look at how other countries have addressed the coverage of drugs. We’ll pose questions that we feel Canadians and our governments should ask, and share our thoughts on the principles that we believe should guide our national decisions on the form that a pharmacare program should take.

With these blogs, we hope to add to the conversation on national pharmacare. The Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare is currently seeking input from the public on how to implement affordable national pharmacare for Canadians. We hope that by sharing our perspective and the perspectives of others, we’ll encourage you to engage, too.