Pharmacare increasingly on the agenda – two upcoming events

In 2007 we attended SOS Medicare II, a high-profile national conference in Regina looking at the unfinished Medicare agenda.

Tommy Douglas’ original vision for Medicare extended far beyond what we have in Canada today. Once the envy of the world, our Medicare system is now wanting compared to other developed nations which have a much broader scope of public coverage.

Canada is drawing closer to the United States than Europe in the percentage of our health care system that remains totally private. The evidence is clear – the U.S. system is the most costly in the world and fails to deliver good population-based health outcomes. We spend far less than our neighbours to the south, live longer and have a much better infant mortality rate. If we want a truly more sustainable health care system, then perhaps it is time to start looking at expanding public coverage instead of delisting more services.

This year Pharmacare – public coverage for prescription drugs – is getting particular attention due to increased interest by the provinces. Canada is an outlier among developed nations for our lack of a universal Pharmacare program. While Conservatives would scoff at the cost of such a program, the reality is Canadians would stand to save substantially on health care costs with its introduction.

In February we were in Vancouver for Pharmacare 2020, a two-day event that involved a cross-section of patient advocates, pharmaceutical companies, insurance providers, academics and labour. (Read our stories here.)

Two more events are now on the horizon:

Students for Medicare are hosting a one-day event — Expanding the Canada Health Act: Pharmacare and Beyond — in Toronto on Saturday, April 27th from 10 am to 2 pm. Taking place at the downtown Steelworkers Hall on Cecil Street, the event includes three speakers – Dr. Danielle Martin and Dr. Sanjeev Goel from Canadian Doctors for Medicare and Marc-Andre Gagnon, professor of public policy at Carleton University and author of the Economic Case for Universal Pharmacare.

For those wishing to get a good introduction to the issue, this event is only $10 (suggested contribution) and includes lunch. Gagnon was among the speakers in Vancouver and presents a very compelling case about the need for a public Pharmacare program in Canada. To register, go to

The Canadian Health Coalition and Carleton University’s School of Public Policy and Administration is holding a more extensive two day conference in Ottawa May 24-25 entitled Rethinking Drug Coverage. Taking place at the National Hotel and Suites, the conference includes many heavy hitters, including respected UBC health economist Robert G. Evans, York University’s Joel Lexchin, and UBC’s Steven Morgan, the individual most are crediting for this revival of interest in national Pharmacare. Marc-Andre Gagnon will also be part of a panel on cost-containment with Morgan and the University of Ottawa’s Don Husereau.

The Ottawa event will feature international perspectives from the UK, France and New Zealand. New Zealand, a country of 4.4 million people, has among the lowest drug prices in the world.

Last year’s Council of the Federation meeting in Halifax committed to a national pharmaceutical strategy, beginning with an Pan-Canadian alliance to negotiate better drug prices.

In March 2012 the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology recommended in its March 2012 report “that the federal government work with the provinces and territories to develop a national Pharmacare program based on the principles of universal and equitable access for all Canadians; improved safety and appropriate use; cost controls to ensure value for money and sustainability…”

The idea may not be as remote as some believe.

If you are a non-governmental organization – including unions – the early bird rate (before April 15) for this national conference is $295 to register. To do so, go to

Can’t make it to either? Diablogue will feature coverage of both events. Stay tuned!

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