Tag Archives: Michael Law

Pharmacare 2020: A remedy for an accident of history

UBC's Michael Law with Saskatchewan health policy analyst Steven Lewis.

UBC’s Michael Law with Saskatchewan health policy analyst Steven Lewis.

VANCOUVER – Canada’s Medicare system stops the minute a doctor writes a prescription.

On the second day of Pharmacare 2020, the talk turned to how we get to a quality system that will leave no Canadian behind, that will be efficient, accountable, and evidence-based.

Saskatoon health policy analyst Steven Lewis says leaving drug coverage out at the dawn of Medicare was an accident of history. If we were to create a pharmacare program from scratch, the task would be much easier. The problem is how do we transition from the house we built for ourselves to the one we want to live in?

Another audience participant astutely remarked that from the 30,000 foot level there is a great degree of consensus, but getting closer to the ground is going to be more difficult.

Lewis is blunt about the reasons why – a public pharmacare system would create winners and losers. Doctors would be the winners – a public pharmacare system would better mirror their existing practices. It would be more difficult for retail pharmacists who may need to define what their role is within the health system. Should they be remunerated as the owners or employees of a retail outlet, or should they join the mainstream of health professions and get remunerated based on the service they render to the public?

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Pharmacare 2020: The evidence is clear, but where is the political will?

Jim Keon and Jody Shkrobot protect their turf during Pharmacare 2020 in Vancouver.

Jim Keon and Jody Shkrobot protect their turf during Pharmacare 2020 in Vancouver.

VANCOUVER – Almost 10 per cent of Canadians never fill their drug prescriptions. They can’t afford it.

We’re here in Vancouver for a unique forum to discuss what every major national health care system review over the last 50 years has recommended – the need for a national pharmacare program. We can no longer ignore the fact that universal access to prescription drugs is a necessary part of any modern health system. Canada is an outlier on the international stage – most countries have some form of universal pharmacare coverage for its citizens. Given the collective wealth of our nation, this is a major embarrassment. As one participant in Pharmacare 2020 noted, we have yet to enter the 21st century when it comes to drugs.

How different our health system might look should we have followed Justice Emmett M. Hall’s recommendations in 1964 that Canada move to a national pharmacare system with a $1 deductible on prescription drugs. Since then we have had the National Health Forum (1994-97) The Romanow Commission (2002) and the recent National Pharmaceutical Strategy which failed to come to any agreement on the objective of providing the basic minimum of catastrophic drug coverage. Seems the provinces could not agree not to bankrupt very ill citizens who are faced with steep drug costs.

It’s not like we are saving the public treasury money.

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