President’s Message – Feb 1, 2024

February 1, 2024

Dear ACER-CART Colleagues,

Since 2016 one of the consistent priorities for ACER-CART has been the request for the implementation of a National Pharmacare Program. I hope this document provides answers as to why Canada needs the program and how it will benefit our members and seniors.

Canada is the only developed country in the world with a universal health care program that does not include a universal prescription drug plan. We have the third-highest prescription drug costs in the world after the United States and Switzerland. Canada has widely varying prescription drug coverage and uneven access to prescription drugs. Canadians often pay different rates for the same medication, depending on where they live. The idea of a national funded prescription drug program was recommended as the second half of the universal health care program in the Royal Commission on Health Care report in 1964.

Canada is not benefiting from the current system, but pharmaceutical and private insurance companies are. Pharmaceutical companies charge higher prices for commonly used drugs because they are selling to many different buyers. Private insurance companies benefit by charging employers, unions, and employees to administer private drug insurance plans.

In a study entitled Pharmacare 2020: The Future of Drug Coverage in Canada, it was revealed that New Zealand’s national drug program allows it to lower prices by bargaining with drug companies for the whole country. An example of cost savings is the brand name of anti-cholesterol drug Lipitor. For a year’s supply in New Zealand, the cost would be $15 versus a minimum of $811 in Canada. A year’s supply of the generic version of Lipitor would cost $140 in Canada, more than nine times greater than the New Zealand price tag.

We need a National Pharmacare Program that covers all Canadians! One in five Canadians pays out of pocket for their medications, either because they do not have a prescription plan, or their plan does not cover the full cost of the prescriptions they need. It is estimated that one in ten Canadians do not fill prescriptions because they can’t afford them.

The Pharmacare 2020 study indicated that the combined purchasing power of a National Pharmacare Program would save $4 billion to $11 billion a year in prescriptions. Further, by using evidence and information systems to guide drug coverage and prescribing, there would be a saving of $5 billion a year to reduce the problems of overuse, underuse, and misuse.

It is now our responsibility to lobby Members of Parliament, Members of our Provincial Legislature, and the Federal Minister of Health to inform them of the tremendous cost savings of a universal, single payer, comprehensive, accessible, portable, and national public drug plan.

The Supply and Confidence Agreement between the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party states that both parties will continue to progress towards a universal, National Pharmacare Program by introducing legislation entitled the Canada Pharmacare Act with a National Drug Agency to develop a national formulary of essential medicines and bulk purchasing of medications by the end of 2023. The National Drug Agency was established on December 18, 2023, and the legislation for the Canada Pharmacare Act is expected before March 1, 2024.

ACER-CART is soliciting your help in completing the New Mode software by adding your name and e-mail address to the embedded short letter or you may create a personal letter. With the click of a button, the program will send the information to the politicians from your region.

On behalf of ACER-CART, I thank you in advance for participating in our National Pharmacare Program initiative.

Yours sincerely,

Bill Berryman
President ACER-CART