National Rx program sought in Canada

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The push is on for a national pharmacare program in Canada.

Dubbed Pharmacare 2.0, the effort — launched in late June by the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) — aims to build a national consensus for a pan-Canadian pharmacare framework.

CPhA noted that all developed countries with universal health care, except Canada, provide universal coverage for prescription drugs. In Canada, 44% of prescription drug costs are publicly funded, versus 90% of hospital costs and 99% of medical costs. And though all provinces offers some degree of coverage in addition to private insurance plans, many Canadians can’t afford to fill their prescriptions, the association said.

According to CPhA, Pharmacare 2.0 is a four-stage policy development process designed to reboot the pharmacare conversation.

Canada’s 39,000 pharmacists are on the front lines when it comes to access to affordable medications and related services,” stated Carlo Berardi, CPhA chairman. “We understand the issue of pharmacare in practice, not just in theory. No one should have to make the choice between buying groceries and filling a prescription. We are focused on developing principles, policies and priorities for pan-Canadian pharmacare that leverages pharmacists’ first-hand knowledge of existing barriers to appropriate drug therapies.”

Any future pharmacare policy must address gaps between private and public systems, protect Canadians from undue financial hardship, preserve patient access to a stable supply of clinically and cost-effective drugs, and provide access to the full range of pharmacy services to achieve better health, better care and better value, CPhA said.

“It’s time to change the pharmacare narrative. Governments’ current approach to improving affordability and access to drugs through a singular preoccupation on reducing drug prices does not address the key concerns of Canadians: improving health outcomes and the long-term sustainability of public drug plans,” explained Perry Eisenschmid, CPhA’s chief executive officer. “The focus of CPhA’s pharmacare initiative is building a sustainable health care system by providing optimal patient-centered care at an affordable price.”

Results of a national survey by Abacus Data for CPhA, released this week, revealed that 79% of Canadians support the idea of a pan-Canadian pharmacare program. Still, 74% of the 2,000 Canadians polled expressed concerns that a pan-Canadian pharmacare program could leave them fewer options and benefits than their current private plans. Eighty-five percent of respondents also expressed concerns about governments’ ability to administer a pan-Canadian pharmacare plan, and 79% were concerned about higher costs if such a program led to increased prescription drug use.

What’s more, Canadians indicated that they want a pharmacare program that covers more than just medications. Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed think pharmacare should also cover services provided by pharmacists to dispense, monitor and counsel patients on effective drug use. Meanwhile, 77% believe that pharmacare should cover other health advice and services provided by pharmacists, such as vaccines, smoking cessation services, managing minor ailments, medication reviews and screening for medical conditions, such as diabetes.

“Canadians support the idea of a pharmacare program that ensures no Canadian is without adequate coverage for necessary medications and pharmacy services,” Eisenschmid commented. “Canadians recognize that access to medications is only one component of a sustainable pharmacare model and support the vital role that pharmacists and pharmacy services have in optimal drug therapy and improving health outcomes.”


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