I began medical school optimistic about what becoming a physician meant I could do for my future patients. Naively, I presumed my career would involve treating patients’ illnesses so they could return to lead full and fulfilling lives.
The newest report from Canada’s brand name drug makers on access to new drugs has one key message: compared to other countries, Canada goes slow and low. New drugs are slower to be covered by our provincial drug plans and the numbers of people who get access to new drugs are lower than in other countries.
Amalgamation always seems like a good idea. Greater Victoria has 13 municipalities, 13 councils, oodles of separate fire and police departments and multiple separate teams of garbage-persons, road fixers, parks maintainers and others that you need to keep our cities humming.
In spite of very high expenditures for drug coverage, one in 10 Canadians cannot afford to fill their prescriptions. The current patchwork of public and private plans across the country means that Canadians are covered for their prescription drugs based on where they live or work, rather than on their medical needs.
Canada’s cities face a number of problems: traffic, housing, crime, infrastructure – the list goes on. Prescription drugs are one of these problems – one that is costing local governments as much as $500-million every year.
The Prentice government announced that it will restore the use of healthcare taxes so that Albertans can directly contribute to the healthcare system. On the surface, levying up to $1000 per person earning over $50,000 per year to contribute approximately $0.5 billion over two years towards an $18 billion medical treatment system sounds reasonable.
Repeatedly over the past 50 years, national commissions and inquiries have recommended that Canadian medicare include universal, public coverage of prescription drugs. So far, no government has acted on this, creating profound inequities and inefficiencies in our health care system. But more than that: the lack of universal pharmacare is bad for Canadian businesses, large and small.
A new study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal with health economist Steve Morgan as lead author argues a national universal care drug program would not result in substantial tax increases. Indeed, such a plan reduces public and private spending on prescription drugs by $7.3 billion annually – or by 32 percent.
A growing number of health professionals, patients, community groups and even politicians are calling for national pharmacare. But many Canadians likely wonder what pharmacare is and whether Canada is ready for it.
Employers in Canada spend an estimated 5 billion dollars a year on drug coverage for their employees. Yet, private plans are notoriously inefficient and they often cover higher priced drugs that are not necessarily better for consumers’ health, explains Alan Cassels.