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LETTER: Canada needs pharmacare now

From reader Pegasis McGauley
Nelson, B.C. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Every high-income country with universal healthcare has universal prescription drug coverage except Canada. We have hundreds of public drug plans and tens of thousands of private drug plans, most commonly paid for by employers, so really part of their workers’ wages. Twenty per cent of Canadians are not covered by any drug plan.

Ten per cent of Canadians skip prescriptions because of cost, causing over $1 billion of additional acute care costs, as well as 300-to-700 lives lost annually.

Universal single-payer pharmacare would mean spending at least $4 billion less each year for prescription drugs, with some estimates as high as $12 billion annually. These savings would go to governments, employers and individuals; they could be used to create additional health facilities and hire much needed medical staff. But they will cut into the profits of pharmaceutical and insurance companies.

Therefore these highly profitable corporations have mounted a major campaign against universal pharmacare. They want to increase coverage just for those with little or no drug insurance, preferably through private insurance plans. Thereby Canada would retain the current mishmash of thousands of different drug plans, making bulk buying impossible.

From March 2022 to January 2023, Big Pharma lobbyists met nearly four times more often with Health Canada than the 2015-2019 average. During this same time period insurance lobbyists met with Health Canada almost five times more than their 2015-2019 average.

The only way to counter this hugae pressure on our elected officials and their appointed staffs is by our heartfelt outcry for what we really need: universal public single-payer pharmacare.

Write, call or email your MP, Minister of Health Mark Holland and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to pass pharmacare legislation now.

Enough talk, enough study, enough reports. It’s time for Action.

Pegasis McGauley

Nelson/West Kootenay Chapter Council of Canadians