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New Council of Canadians poll shows 91% want Liberals to implement pharmacare

Health Minister Jane Philpott and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau need to respond to the public demand for pharmacare.

The Council of Canadians has commissioned a new poll on public support for pharmacare as the issue on universal drug coverage and drug prices intensifies.

The survey conducted by Environics Research asked two questions:

1- “As you know, our public health care system does not currently include coverage for the costs of prescription drugs. Some people say Canada should implement a national ‘pharmacare’ program that would provide universal access to prescription drugs to all Canadians.” The poll found that 52.9% strongly support this statement, while 38.5% somewhat support this statement.

2- “If the current Liberal federal government were to introduce a national pharmacare program in the next two years – what impact would it have on your likelihood of voting Liberal in the next federal election in 2019?” The poll found that 42.9% of respondents said, “I’d be more likely to vote Liberal in the next election.”

On May 5, the Toronto Star reported, “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. The Commons health committee 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.”

This is disappointing and at least 13 Council of Canadians chapters will be mobilizing later this month to lobby their Member of Parliament on pharmacare.

Their main messages will be:

1- We would save money. 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.

2- Everyone would be covered. Right now 10 per cent of Canadians – approximately 3.5 million people – don’t have even basic drug coverage.

3- Companies would pay less. Data shows that Canadian companies spend about $200 million per week on prescription drug costs incurred by employer drug plans.

This morning, the Canadian Press reports, “Philpott is announcing consultations on a suite of proposed regulatory changes related to the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board. Philpott says the board was created 30 years ago to protect consumers and to ensure companies do not use monopolies to charge excessive costs. She says, however, the board is limited in its ability to protect consumers from high drug prices, a problem the federal government wants to address. Online consultation run until June 28. Philpott hopes the new regulations will be in place no later than the end of 2018.”

The Trudeau government is failing on three fronts:

1- Pharmacare would provide the opportunity to improve drug price reviews at the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board and create real transparency at Health Canada. If Canada had a single purchasing and negotiating agency there would be more leverage to negotiate better drug prices.

2- The Liberal government’s implementation bill for the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic Agreement (CETA) received Royal Assent this week. Studies show that the lengthened patent provisions for pharmaceutical drugs in CETA could cost us between $850 million to $1.65 billion annually.

3- The federal government has neither committed to a national formulary (to achieve equitable, evidence-based drug coverage across the country) or a publicly-funded drug approval agency (to improve the safety, monitoring and quality of prescription drugs). We need a new national agency to provide transparency in the process of determining what drugs are covered based on appropriateness, safety, value for money, and objective evidence-based medical reviews.

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