Canadian Doctors for Medicare is concerned about the one-sided nature of the Canada 2020 National Pharmacare Forum held last week. The forum, which was attended by Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, was dominated by industry groups that oppose universal drug coverage, while lacking representation from medical professionals and groups who support a more equitable and evidence-based single payer system.
The event featured representatives from the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA); Innovative Medicines Canada (IMC); and the Canadian Organization for Rare Diseases (CORD), among others. No independent academic research on pharmacare was presented.
The Government of Canada announced its commitment to pharmacare in February of 2018, with the creation of the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare. The council was tasked with providing recommendations on how to implement an affordable national pharmacare system for patients, families, employers and governments. The council's interim report, presented in March of 2019, informed the terms of the Government of Canada's pharmacare investment as part of its 2019 budget.
Although the federal government has taken its initial steps towards a national pharmacare system, many questions remain regarding how such a system would be implemented. The dominance of industry groups at forums such as the Canada 2020 panel, at the expense of independent academic research, amounts to a failure to properly consider the evidence in favour of a universal single-payer system.
While it is important for the Health Minister to consult with industry stakeholders in shaping a national pharmacare system, it is also vital that the Ministry of Health consider all relevant interests, perspectives and research. The Canada 2020 forum, and the Health Minister's attendance, send an alarming signal that the pharmaceutical industry will be allowed to define legislation that will impact the health and welfare of all people in Canada.
The Advisory Council is scheduled to present its final recommendations in June of 2019, setting the stage for a national debate on pharmacare ahead of this year's federal election. Canadian Doctors for Medicare calls on the Government of Canada to make good on its commitment to pharmacare by adopting an equitable and evidence-based approach that puts patients and the public ahead of private interest.