A Pharmacare Program in Canada? Not So Fast

How close is Canada to having a comprehensive national pharmacare program? By the looks of it, it’s still a wait-and-see issue with a few shiny objects dangled in front of voters. The Trudeau government did not announce a national pharmacare program in its most recent budget. However, what it did was announce funding for what may end up being a similar program.

The budget proposes to implement several recommendations from an interim report given to it by the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare.

The Liberals proposed money to help:

  • Create the Canadian Drug Agency (for which it is dedicating $35 million over four years) to provide a coordinated approach to reviewing drug effectiveness and negotiating drug prices (with projected long-term savings of up to $3 billion per year); and
  • Through the Canadian Drug Agency, develop a national drug formulary in partnership with provinces, territories and other stakeholders to provide a consistent approach to patient access to drugs across Canada.

In response to a need identified in the interim report, the government will develop a national strategy for high-cost drugs for rare diseases to provide consistent coverage for treatments for all Canadians. The budget also proposes new funding of up to $1 billion over two years starting in 2022 and ongoing funding of up to $500 million to make drugs for rare diseases more accessible to Canadians.

According to the Advisory Council’s interim report, drug spending in Canada grew from $2.6 billion in 1985 to $34 billion in 2018. It’s now the second-biggest category of health care spending, behind hospitals.

The final report from the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare is expected in spring 2019.

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