Prescription drugs must be integrated with medicare, says CHAC

By 
  • September 15, 2010
prescriptionsOTTAWA - The Catholic Health Alliance of Canada (CHAC) has welcomed the findings of a new study that calls for universal public pharmacare.

The study, entitled The Economic Case for Universal Pharmacare, says Canada could lop $4.48 billion off the current $25.1 billion spent annually on prescription drugs with moderate revisions on how drugs are priced.


The study by Marc-Andre Gagnon, an assistant professor at Carleton University's School of Public Policy, estimates cost savings could increase to $10.7 billion if policies were implemented to reduce drug prices.

The study also takes aim at the patchwork approach of private and public plans, arguing Canada pays too much for prescription drugs relative to other industrial countries, between 16 and 40 per cent more.

“What’s being proposed is in line with what we’ve advocated for the past 15 years,” said CHAC executive director James Roche.

CHAC has been advocating the integration of prescription drugs into Canadian medicare since the National Forum on Health in 1994, Roche said. Through its involvement with the Canadian Health Coalition, it has been continuing its push for a national pharmaceutical strategy.

Roche noted the issue of cost always comes up, but argued that numerous studies have shown the costs of hospitalization and doctors have stabilized while the costs of pharmaceuticals have “sky-rocketed.”

The Canadian Health Coalition sent an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper Sept. 14, the day the Gagnon study was released by the Centre for Policy Alternatives. A letter was also sent to provincial health ministers attending a First Ministers health care meeting.

“We are urging the Prime Minister to read this important report, stop washing his hands of this issue by passing the drug bill to the provinces and show some real leadership by acknowledging the essential role of the federal government in establishing a fair and effective drug insurance plan for all Canadians,” said national co-ordinator Michael McBane in a statement.

“The way we pay for prescription drugs is broken,” said Joel Lexchin, MD, professor, School of Health Policy and Management at Toronto's York University, who endorsed the study. “Politicians hide behind the excuse that universal public coverage is too expensive.

“This study exposes that excuse as a fallacy. We can save money and cover everyone in the country. Medicare works and Pharmacare is no different.”

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