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The Debate on National Pharmacare

​Last week, more than 1,200 health care and public policy experts signed an open letter to the federal party leaders, asking them to commit to implementing a national pharmacare system in Canada. Though this has been in the talks for over 50 years, experts say it’s necessary now more than ever, given the increasingly higher drug prices and spending in Canada.

This letter follows a report released earlier this year by the Liberal government’s advisory council, recommending the establishment of a universal, single-payer, public pharmacare system. Implementation would begin with the formation of a “Canadian Drug Agency”, an arms-length organization tasked with developing an essential medicines list, and expanding it over the next 7 years into a comprehensive national drug formulary. Medicines will be assessed based on how well they work and whether they offer good value for money. It’s believed this system could increase Canada’s negotiating power with global pharmaceutical firms to significantly lower the cost of prescription drugs.

For pharmaceutical companies, pharmacare could mean lower revenue and consequently, less innovation and investment in the Canadian market. Particularly with the growing number of rare disease medications being developed, the “best value for least money” model could be detrimental. While there is no doubt Canadians want more affordable medications, will it come at the expense of innovation and access to newer and better products?

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