January 7, 2016
Dear Minister Lake,
We understand that Canada’s provincial and territorial health ministers are meeting with federal Minister of Health Jane Philpott on January 20 and 21 in Vancouver with an objective to negotiate a new national health accord. We hope you will include in your discussions the importance of moving forward on a national pharmacare plan that would mean that everyone in Canada would have access to the prescription medicines they need.
As we’re sure you are aware, our current patchwork system of private and public drug plans means that we are paying some of the highest drug prices in the world. Prescription medications cost on average 30% more in Canada than in other industrialized countries. Runaway drug costs have serious impacts for our health and our health care system. Every year, at least three million Canadians are unable to fill their prescriptions due to cost. In addition to not filling prescriptions, many low income Canadians split or skip doses to try to make medications last longer. Not being able to take medications the way that they are prescribed leads to increased health complications which can result in hospitalizations.
Drug costs are now the second biggest expense for the Canadian health care system, meaning that we spend more on drugs than we do on physician salaries. You are on record saying that provinces have already found big savings by buying some drugs together in bulk for their existing programs and questioning the evidence of further savings from a national program. Given the evidence from other countries that national bulk buying is key to controlling their drug costs, and the documented inequities in Canadians’ access to the prescription drugs they need, we urge you and your fellow health ministers to take advantage of the new spirit of cooperation from the federal government to pursue the development of a national plan.
Thank you for your attention to this important issue.
First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition