The Missing Piece in Canadian Medicare

It’s time for national pharma care to be brought to Canada. 

Medications that require a medical prescription are classified as prescription drugs. For instance, opioids used to treat pain or relieve cough or diarrhea are prescription drugs. In Canada, most prescriptions are paid for through employer-sponsored drug plans, while other coverage is provided by government programs for elderly people who earn low incomes. Canada is the only country whose universal health care system doesn’t cover prescription medications for all.

The high cost of drugs is one of the main problems of our health care system. Health insurance may cover some, but not all the drugs. Many Canadians are struggling with insurance coverage, which leads them to cut pills, or not fill prescriptions at all because of high costs. 

A 2011 poll shows nearly one in four have cut pills in half to get by, or refused to fill a prescription due to high costs. Most Canadians have insufficient insurance coverage or even worse, no coverage at all. A recent survey found that 93 percent of Canadians favor a national pharmaceutical plan. One in six Canadians has opted not to take medication since they could not afford it due to cost. These examples show the importance of a universal public drug coverage plan. It will improve health outcomes, decrease hospital visits, and decrease the costs for health care if patients have access to medications they need. 

We can prevent, treat and manage circumstances such as heart disease and strokes more effectively, and efficiently if we have access to medications through a national health care system. The diseases of the cardiovascular system, such as heart disease, stroke, and vascular cognitive impairment, claim the lives of approximately one Canadian every five minutes. Canadian pharmacies dispense approximately 101 million prescriptions for the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease each year. It is important for people who are at risk of or who have experienced heart disease or stroke to have access to prescription medication. 

Prescription drugs are an important part of treating and managing a lot of heart and brain conditions. Some diseases, such as blood pressure medication, can prevent heart attacks and strokes later on. With a national pharma care program, most heart diseases, sufferance, and death would be prevented. A national, universal pharma care program can help improve access to medication and thus prevent, treat, and manage heart disease and stroke.

Several gaps in the Canadian health care system exist. The majority of these gaps display themselves as equity issues. Recent immigrants, women, and persons of color living in Canada have a higher unemployment rate and a lower chance of getting extended health benefits, such as drug coverage. The federal government’s Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) Program also presents barriers to indigenous people when it comes to accessing prescription medications, as many face long delays and may even be denied. 

Canada has suffered more losses in prescription drug coverage over the past year than it has gained due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is twice as likely that people have lost coverage than gained in the last year. A universal coverage of prescription drugs would fix the equity problems. 

Due to the high cost of prescription drugs, its benefits to heart diseases and strokes, and the fact that a universal health insurance program can fill in the gaps of Canadian health system, we need a universal pharma care that is designed to improve the access to prescription drugs and is open to everyone.