Federal Health Minister out of touch with the realities of prescription drug coverage in Canada

Ottawa, Ontario – On Monday, April 11th, Federal Health Minister, Dr. Jane Philpott, announced to the Commons Health Committee that she had no mandate to create a universal pharmacare programme and that “it sounds like it might be expensive…There are public drug plans across the country for people who can’t afford medication.”

It is clear to the Canadian Health Coalition and the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada that Philpott has missed the point. “The reason why drugs are so expensive in Canada is precisely because we do not have a national public drug plan,” says Julie White, author of the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada’s pharmacare policy paper. “We pay far more for drugs because we are unable to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies for the whole population, as is done in many other countries.”

Reliable research has shown that on a total cost of $27 billion paid for drugs, we pay up to $11 billion more than we would with a national plan. Meanwhile both provincial plans and private insurance plans are struggling under the high prices and cutting back coverage.

As a physician, Minister Philpott should understand that prescription drugs are a critical part of health care. “Currently, 1 in 10 Canadians are unable to adhere to prescriptions because of their cost,” says Adrienne Silnicki, National Coordinator of the Canadian Health Coalition. “While Minister Philpott may believe that the drug plans that currently exist are doing enough, there are very clearly people falling through gaping holes. We need to ensure everyone can receive the medication they need and a National Public Drug Plan is the surest, most affordable way to do that.”

“Every other country with universal health care covers medicines. People are suffering here because they cannot afford their prescription drugs. This should not be acceptable in a country as wealthy as Canada,” says Julie White.

The Canadian Health Coalition and the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada calls on the Federal Health Minister to think again and to initiate conversations with the provinces about a national public drug plan.

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