An advocacy committee is calling on the federal government to implement a national pharmacare program.
The Council of Canadians, citing a recent report and a poll showing overwhelming support, say a pharmacare plan could save billions of dollars per year on health care and enhance our quality of life. Prince Albert’s local chapter launched their campaign for the initiative last week.
“Although Canada has universal health coverage it does not have any drug coverage and this is becoming a big problem,” Nancy Carswell, president of the local chapter said. “Drugs are what are driving our health care costs, disproportional to other costs.”
According to the council, studies show a national pharmacare program could save the country nearly $14 billion per year through reducing hospital admissions and contributing to overall better health.
The group says in 2016, Canadians spent $30 billion to fill over 600 million prescriptions, which is more than four times what we spent 20 years ago. They say a universal program could help slash these costs by close to 30 per cent.
Carswell said a national plan would assist the one-in-ten Canadians who cannot afford their prescriptions and the many other who do not take their fully prescribed dosage due to refill costs. The group also claim a pan-Canadian pharmacare program would give businesses a competitive edge when it came to purchasing power for drugs.
“I think everyone benefits with pharmacare coverage,” she said. “When you have [numbers like these] you have huge costs on our health care system because those people are in the hospital, or worse, in the morgue.”
Carswell told the story of a disheartening phone call she recently had with an elderly woman. She said the senior purchased a prescription which cost $50. However, this conflicted with another medication she was on and required her to buy another.
“And since she can’t return it, there went her birthday money she had carefully set aside,” she said. “It may sound trivial, but that kind of uncertainty and quality of life issue does harm us all.”
Carswell said now was the time for to prescribe the country a national pharmacare program as drug prices have moved beyond the reach of many. She said the world of pharmaceuticals had become a “wild west industry.”
The Council also believe in order to make pharmacare a reality, it must be protected from international trade agreements. Carswell feared trade agreements like CETA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership could drive up drug prices and open up the government to corporate lawsuits from Big Pharma, who may see certain policies as impeding on their ability to turn a profit.
The Council is encouraging people to contact their local MP’s, the Prime Minister and Health Minister, and have set up an online petition.
“Access to medicine, according to the United Nations, is a human right and to have access without affordability, is not good, it is unhealthy.”
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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