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PBO: universal pharmacare costs less than current spending

PBO report confirms: Pharmacare costs less than we spend now, and covers everyone

The Parliamentary Budget Office report, released today, confirms what health policy experts have been saying for years: Canadians can have a universal pharmacare system for billions of dollars less than we pay now for prescriptions.

While the report’s estimates of medication price reduction are conservative and the formulary used is one of the most extensive available, the PBO still found that a national pharmacare plan would result in a net savings of over $4 billion for Canadians.

“It is refreshing to see the PBO report reflect that a universal pharmacare is not only achievable but that it will result in savings, and policy experts know that the savings could be even greater,” said Dr. Dayaal Raza, Chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare. “The report assumes a 25% cost saving from a more cost-oriented purchasing policy, but Quebec just negotiated a $40% cut so we know that Canada can do at least that well,” Dr. Raza added.

Dr. Raza also noted that the PBO costing does not take into account the extensive administrative savings that would be had under a single payer system, and overlooks the over $3 billion governments spend on private health plans for their employees.

In fact, the PBO report may signal that total current public spending on medications may be enough to fund pharmacare. In a report released yesterday, Canadian Doctors for Medicare and the Canadian Centre Policy Alternatives estimated current public spending on prescription medications at $18.1 billion. The PBO identifies further tax deductions for individual and family drug plans not previously included, putting public costs at $20.7 billion, above the $20.4 billion PBO estimate for the total cost of pharmacare.

“As a physician, my first thought is about my patients’ health. Knowing now that the millions of Canadians who can’t afford to take their medication could be covered for less than we spend today, I can only ask why Canadian governments aren’t acting now to implement pharmacare,” said Raza. “It is clearer now more than ever that a national pharmacare is not only good for the health of Canadians, but it is also sound economic policy.”

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For more information contact: Katie Arnup, Communications and Outreach Manager at 647-289-5205 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Canadian Doctors for Medicare provides a voice for Canadian doctors who want to strengthen and improve Canada's universal publicly-funded health care system in a way that benefits all Canadians.