We Can’t Afford Not to Introduce Pharmacare

“I watched a woman break into tears of joy in my office. She had just moved to Saskatchewan and was struggling financially. She needs medication for a chronic illness, but was suffering without it because she couldn’t afford the prescription. When I managed to find a way to get her a month’s worth for free, she was overjoyed. Being able to access necessary medications shouldn’t be a surprise and a huge relief; it should be the norm. But for the one in five Canadians who can’t afford to take their medications as prescribed, that’s not the case.”

—Dr. Ryan Meili, Regina Leader-Post, January 7, 2016

Canada is the only country with a universal health-care system that doesn’t offer prescription drug coverage. This oversight results in unnecessary illness and suffering and costs us billions.

High drug costs worsens people’s health, either because they aren’t able to receive proper treatment, or because they have to choose between paying for medications they badly need and other necessities like food or rent. When people with chronic illnesses like diabetes or hypertension have to skip their medication to pay the rent, their health suffers, their condition is likely to worsen, hospital visits increase, and the costs for the healthcare system skyrocket. In fact, a 2015 study shows that universal drug coverage would save Canadians over $7 billion in private and public spending, with little or no increase to government budgets.

Over 90% of Canadians agree that we need a national pharmacare program, which makes sense, as one in five Canadians don’t fill necessary prescriptions because the medications cost too much.

When we cover medications that prevent heart attacks and strokes, the full range of contraceptive options, treatment for HIV and Hepatitis C, smoking cessation treatment, inhalers for asthma and COPD, and drugs that prevent the complications of diabetes, we improve people’s quality of life and save millions in downstream costs.

We can:

  • establish universal pharmacare with a formulary of key medications available free of charge to Saskatchewan patients;
  • advocate for a national pharmacare plan while leading by example here in Saskatchewan, just as we led the way with the introduction of Medicare;
  • save money through bulk purchasing and evidence-based prescribing and by acting early to prevent downstream health troubles;
  • use the Choosing Wisely Canada approach to decrease unnecessary prescriptions, medical imaging and other treatments;
  • commission a study of the viability of producing generic drugs here in Saskatchewan through a new crown corporation, SaskPharm.

Saskatchewan can once again lead the way in improving the health of Canadians by working together to get everyone a better deal.

Like this idea? Sign the petition for universal pharmacare.