National Pharmacare for Canada: If not now, then when?

Pictou-Advocate-opinion

To the Editor:

As we celebrate Canada’s 150th year what better gift to give Canadians than the gift of better health? A national Pharmacare program would make all medications accessible to those who need it no matter who they are or where they live in Canada. Thus better health, a gift that keeps on giving.

A national Pharmacare program completes the care cycle that Medicare began. Doctors diagnose and treat an illness often by prescribing medications. However, without a national Pharmacare program the medications are not attainable or used in the prescribed manner for millions of Canadians. Pharmacare would allow access to these medications by having medications at one reasonable price per prescription.

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Why in Canada do we pay some of the highest costs of medications in the world? Other countries use their purchasing power to reduce prices. Canada can do this as well, if they choose. If we compare New Zealand to Canada for drug prices, Canadians pay $1 for every 11.5 cents that New Zealand pays for their prescriptions.

A year’s supply of atorvastatin, a widely used cholesterol drug, costs about $143 in Canada but only $27 in the United Kingdom and under $15 in New Zealand. A year’s supply of Lipitor, another cholesterol busting drug, in New Zealand is about $15 a year compared to $811 in Canada.

Amlodipine, $10 in New Zealand versus $130 in Canada.

Metformin, $14.60 in New Zealand versus $58.40 in Canada.

Atorvastatin calcium, $18.10 in New Zealand versus $142.35 in Canada.

Amoxicillin, $32.85 in New Zealand and $197.10 in Canada.

Afinitor, a cancer treatment, $5 in New Zealand versus $85,480.00 in Canada.

The list could go on, covering about 4,000 medications, however, this gives a clear picture of why, in Canada, a universal Pharmacare program is desperately needed. Billions, not millions would be saved in Canada each year.

Canada is the only developed country that does not include prescription drugs as part of its universal health program. Medicare only takes you so far. There is no dispute that affordability of prescription drugs is an issue for many Canadian households and it is growing. As we celebrate Canada’s 150th, a commitment to Pharmacare by 2020 is something we could truly celebrate. National Pharmacare … It is time!

To achieve Pharmacare it will take a national movement. I hope this letter has struck a cord, please call, write, email, text or tweet your local MP, MLA and premier. Ask if anything is being done for a national Pharmacare program and request an answer; your representative really should respond to the people they represent; that being you, the voters and taxpayers. Everyone has a voice, many voices will achieve national Pharmacare.

Tammy MacLaren

New Glasgow