A National Public Drug Plan for All

Why Canada Needs a National Drug Plan

  1. One in every 10 (3.5 million) Canadians cannot afford the drugs they are currently prescribed.1 Without adequate medications, they end up ill, go to emergency rooms, and in some cases need surgery. Only a third of Canadians are covered by public drug plans, which vary from province to province. Most are covered (partially) through expensive and unreliable private insurance plans offered by their workplaces. A further one in 10 have no coverage at all.
  2. Canada’s patchwork, multi-payer prescription drug system is not fair or equitable, and is very costly. As a result, Canadians experience higher drug costs, varying levels of prescription drug coverage, uneven access to prescription drugs, and different costs for the same medications and for dispensing fees. We lose money by paying insurance companies to administer thousands of plans.
  3. Among OECD countries, Canada pays the second-highest amount per capita for prescription drugs.2 Today, Canadians fill over half a million prescriptions a year, spending $29 billion on medicine – almost four times what Canadians spent 20 years ago.3
  4. Public spending covers less than half the cost of prescription medicine. Canada has the third-lowest percentage of public coverage for pharmaceutical costs among OECD nations – only the U.S. and Poland have lower levels of drug coverage paid for by public programs.4
  5. Pharmaceutical companies spend an estimated $61,000 per doctor each year to promote drugs in the U.S.,5 often influencing prescribing behaviour and leading to inappropriate prescribing practices. We can assume that Canadian firms spend a proportional amount.

What Would a National Public Drug Plan Look Like?

  • A national public drug plan would provide prescription drugs to everyone in a fair and equal manner, with oversight and some funding provided by the federal government.
  • Drug prices would be negotiated at the national level. Canada would have the power to provide the whole population of 36 million people access to needed medications. We could achieve up to $10 billion in savings each year.6
  • A national drug agency would improve drug safety by providing independent, accurate information to doctors, independent analysis of new drugs and a national database to track adverse reactions.

Canada Can Do Better

  • Canada is the only country with a universal health care system that does not include drugs.
  • And we are far behind. Many countries introduced national public drug plans in the 1940s at the same time as their public health coverage.

Let’s ensure everyone has access to the medications they need.

Contact your Member of Parliament and tell them that we need a national pharmacare plan now.

For more information

1 Michael Law et al. The effect of cost on adherence to prescription medications in Canada. CMAJ January 16, 2012, doi: 10.1503/cmaj.111270

2 OECD (2017), Pharmaceutical spending. doi:10.1787/998febf6-en

3 Canadian Institute for Health Information. Prescribed Drug Spending in Canada, 2016 – A Focus on Public Drug Programs.

4 OECD (2017), Pharmaceutical spending. doi:10.1787/998febf6-en

5 Dr. Marc-André Gagnon and Guillaume Hébert for CCPA, The Economic Case for Universal Pharmacare, 2010.

6 Micheal Butler, A Prescription for Better Medicine: Why Canadians need a national pharmacare program, The Council for Canadians