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Council of Canadians meets with Liberal MP Doug Eyolfson on pharmacare

Chris Clacio, Doug Eyolfson, Brigette DePape

Winnipeg-based Council of Canadians organizer Brigette DePape and activist Chris Clacio met with Liberal Member of Parliament Doug Eyolfson this afternoon.

Eyolfson represents the Winnipeg riding of Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley and is also an emergency room physician.

DePape tells us, “We had a great meeting with MP Doug Eyolfson, especially given his background in medicine and that pharmacare is a current area of focus for him. He is on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health Care that has been studying pharmacare and will be producing the report with recommendations in the fall.”

She adds, “He would like to see pharmacare supported in the report. He cannot say for sure what exactly the committee’s recommendation on pharamcare will be. They are waiting on a budget estimate of the costs before this.”

She then notes, “While he told us he is a major advocate for pharmacare, he said one of the barriers that government comes across in moving forward with universal coverage is the argument that the program is too expensive.”

We have argued that pharmacare would save Canadians approximately $14 billion a year by reducing administration costs and giving us stronger buying power to negotiate better prices for medications.

Furthermore, we have noted the government’s inconsistency in supporting the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) when studies show that the extended patent provisions for pharmaceutical drugs under that agreement could cost us between $850 million to $1.65 billion annually.

And we have noted that the health care costs for those who can’t afford their prescription drugs and end up back in hospital care add up to as much as $9 billion a year according to the Mowat Centre report, Unfilled Prescriptions: The Drug Coverage Gap in Canada’s Health Care Systems.

Getting the attention of federal Liberal politicians on this issue is a critical task.

Toronto Star columnist Susan Delacourt comments, “Pharmacare is not anywhere near the top of the federal government’s to-do list at present. Health Minister Jane Philpott has been saying repeatedly that her mandate, as far as it concerns drug prices and availability, is limited to getting better deals within the status quo.”

That article adds, “The Commons health committee (that Eyolfson sits on) has been studying the idea of a national pharmacare program off and on since late 2015. As recently as February, in fact, the committee was hearing from experts on how a national drug plan might fit into the Constitution. But neither Philpott nor her government has shown much enthusiasm for the committee’s work — at least so far.”

Council of Canadians chapters are meeting with MPs this week to help build momentum for substantive action on pharmacare.

To tell the Prime Minister and Health Minister it’s time for pharmacare, please go to on our online action alert here.