Prescription drugs – An opportunity in Canadian healthcare

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canadian-flag-with-medicineFrom the founding of Canada in 1867 it was clearly defined that the Provinces would retain control over their healthcare provision. However, on April 1st, 1984, under the Liberal government of Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau and Health Minister, Monique Begin, The Canada Health Act was passed into law.  This Federal Act codified over 70 years of Provincial and Federal legislative action, and laid a framework mandating that the Provinces provide universal healthcare to all of their citizens.

While critically important to the Canadian people, the government forgot a few important things – one in particular being coverage of prescription pharmaceuticals.

Over the 30+ years that have followed the Canada Health Act the pharmaceutical industry has rapidly expanded. Modern agents can now prevent death and debilitating illness from chronic conditions, keep a horrifying epidemic like HIV at bay, and cure previously insurmountable diseases such at hepatitis C. In fact, the the Canadian Medical Association describes that the current pharmaceutical industry costs 16% of all healthcare expenditures across the nation, with a total of 23 billion dollars being spent in 2012-2013.

In the year 2016 it is hard to believe that many Canadians across the nation are able to access the highest quality of healthcare services, know with absolutely certainty what treatment they need to lead a healthy and productive life, and yet have their medicines mockingly out of reach. In a 2014 report The Canadian Federation of Nurses Union joined calls by Provincial leaders, insurance providers and patient care advocates in clearly defining the need for coverage.

As a Family and Emergency Room physician who has spent time working with patients in rural East Africa for over five years, I believe that it is egregious that in one of the wealthiest nations on earth I still have patients in Canada with prescriptions for medicines that they cannot afford.

I whole heartedly support the mandate letter for our newest Health Minister, the Honourable Dr. Jane Philpott from our newest Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling for a hard look at a Federal Pharmacare Plan.

It is aptly fitting that the son of the father of modern Canadian healthcare be in the position to make the changes our Country now so desperately needs.

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One Response to “Prescription drugs – An opportunity in Canadian healthcare”

  1. ranjani18 Says:

    Thank you for your blog. It is certainly a travesty that a critical component of health is not accessible by many and often by those who need it the most. By having a universal drug plan, contrary to what some may think, this would result in a savings of billions of dollars. This follows on a publication in CMAJ (http://www.cmaj.ca/content/early/2015/03/16/cmaj.141564). Additionally, it has been suggested by studies in the US that providing free medications may actually improve adherence. I certainly hope that the issue of medication coverage will be re-examined so that we may move to improve the health of Canadians.

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