Natasha Mistry, CARP’s Director of Stakeholder Relations and Community Development, was in Ottawa on June 1st to present our case for a national pharmacare program to the federal Standing Committee on Health (HESA). HESA engages members from all-parties to study issues important to health on a national scale. The ongoing pharmacare review will help Members of Parliament draft a set of recommendations that could help lead reform to expand affordable access to medicines and treatments for Canadians.
CARP stressed the need to improve access and affordability of medications for all Canadians. The status quo is no longer a sustainable option and reform is required to ensure that drugs are affordable and accessible to Canadians regardless of age, income and geography.
The science is clear: barriers to access, whether geographical or financial, lead to the improper use of prescriptions. That means that people will skip doses or simply not take medications that could greatly improve their health and long-term well-being. 10% of CARP members have admitted to skipping prescription medications because of costs. We know that either of these outcomes can result in an increased likelihood of someone ending up in the emergency room.
“Barriers to access, whether geographical or financial, lead to the improper use of prescriptions.”
Using medications properly helps manage patients’ conditions, particularly for seniors. Drugs for MS patients slow down the progression of disease and ward off the advancement of physical disabilities. For people living with inflammatory bowel disease, specialty medications like biologics have increased remission rates, reduced hospitalizations and have postponed the need for surgery.
Better access to necessary medications at lower prices means greater quality of life for Canadians and reduces long-term costs on our public health care system.
To this end CARP made three key recommendations:
- Canada needs to create national pharmacare standards: Prescription drugs in Canada are currently financed by a fragmented patchwork of public and private drug formularies that varies by province.
Each province manages its own health and drug plans. This results in varying programs for drug coverage across the country.
- Facilitate bulk buying to reduce costs: CARP supports the work of the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance’s (pCPA) to jointly negotiate and help lower the costs of treatments. Standardization and the creation of robust formularies are a way to achieve universal access no matter where Canadians live.
- The federal government must be a leader in this process: The federal government has a responsibility to play a strong role in the development of a national pharmacare plan. CARP members believe that the program should involve federal leadership setting national standards and the programs to be managed provincially.
Canada is the only country with a universal health care system that doesn’t have universal coverage for prescription drugs.
At CARP we believe that we can and must to do better for Canadians, and that the time for leadership is now.