To my Canadian readers – a guest post from my mother:
This is something that I feel quite strongly about and we are asking for your support. I was on the policy panel last year that came out with a paper to hand in to government and it has just sat on their desk since then. Please feel free to forward this to any and all the people that you know.
I am writing to ask you to consider signing and sharing Parliamentary E-petition 959, which calls for national pharmacare during this federal government’s mandate. As you know, pharmacare in Canada can and should be a public drug plan that is universal, comprehensive, evidence-based, and sustainable.
This is not my petition, but it is important to get behind it. That is because the federal government might interpret a lack of signatures as a lack of public interest – even though national polling data and the Citizens’ Reference Panel on Pharmacare in Canada show that Canadians do support universal pharmacare!
As published in the Toronto Star this week, here are my four main reasons why pharmacare is important enough to act on. Please feel free to share this widely.
1. Access to essential medicines is a human right
The most important reason for universal pharmacare in Canada is that access to essential medicines is actually a human right according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO recommends that countries protect that right in law and with pharmaceutical policies that work in conjunction with their broader systems of universal health coverage. Consistent with this, every other high-income country with a universal health care system provides universal coverage of prescription drugs. It is time Canada did the same.
2. Universal pharmacare would save lives
Canada’s patchwork of private and public drug plans leaves millions of Canadians without coverage. As a result, Canadians are three to five times more likely to skip prescriptions because of cost than are residents of comparable countries with universal pharmacare programs. A 2012 study estimated that inequities in drug coverage for working-age Ontarians with diabetes were associated with 5,000 deaths between 2002 and 2008. Nationally, this human toll would be equivalent to a major aviation disaster happening several times per year.
3. Universal pharmacare would save money
Canadians spend 50 percent more per capita on pharmaceuticals than residents of the United Kingdom, Sweden, New Zealand and several other countries with universal pharmacare programs. This amounts to spending $12 billion more each year and still not having universal drug coverage. Why? Because the universal pharmacare programs in other countries use their purchasing power to obtain better drug prices than our fractured system. Among many examples of such price differences, a year’s supply of atorvastatin, a widely used cholesterol drug, costs about $143 in Canada but only $27 in the United Kingdom and Sweden, and under $15 in New Zealand.
4. Universal pharmacare would help Canadian businesses
The rising cost of pharmaceuticals are a growing burden on Canadian businesses. Part of the problem is that Canadian employers waste between $3 billion and $5 billion per year because employment-related private insurance is ill equipped to manage pharmaceutical costs effectively. Another part of the problem is that the number of prescription drugs costing more than $10,000 per year has grown almost ten-fold in the past decade. Because such costs can quickly render a work-related health plan unsustainable – particularly for small businesses – it is best to manage them at a province- or nation-wide basis.
Nevertheless, universal pharmacare will not happen unless citizens speak up
Billions of dollars in savings to Canadian taxpayers, employers and households equals billions of dollars of lost revenues to pharmaceutical industry stakeholders. Those stakeholders will not make it easy for government to implement universal pharmacare, no matter the benefit to Canadians and the broader economy.
To make pharmacare a reality for Canada, citizens need to get informed and involved. If they support the idea of universal, public pharmacare, they need to let others, particularly elected officials and political candidates, know they care and that they will support a government that takes action.
So, please, take the time to sign Parliamentary E-petition 959 and to share this with your colleagues, friends, and family.