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Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Better Prescription: Advice for a National Strategy on Pharmaceutical Policy in Canada

Healthcare Policy (open access)

Healthcare Policy, 12(1) May 2016.doi:10.12927/hcpol.2016.24637
Discussion and Debate
A Better Prescription: Advice for a National Strategy on Pharmaceutical Policy in Canada         
Canada needs a national strategy to fulfill its obligation to ensure universal access to necessary healthcare, including prescription drugs. A 2004 attempt at a national strategy for pharmaceutical policy failed because it lacked clear vision, logical planning and commitment from federal and provincial governments. The result of uncoordinated pharmaceutical policies in Canada has been more than a decade of poor system performance. In this essay, we present a framework for a renewed national strategy for pharmaceutical policy. Building on published research and international frameworks, we propose that pharmaceutical policies of federal, provincial, and territorial governments be coordinated around a core health-focused goal. We strongly suggest policy actions be taken on four core objectives that are necessary to support the overarching health goal. If implemented, the proposed strategy would offer clear benefits to all Canadians who use medicines, federal and provincial governments and to the economy as a whole. We therefore argue that political leadership is now needed to articulate and implement such a plan on behalf of Canadians.


Canada needs a national strategy for pharmaceutical policy and now is the time to make it happen owing to the current alignment of government interests at federal and provincial levels. Since 2010, provinces have been voluntarily collaborating on prescription drug pricing through a Pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance; and some provinces, most notably Ontario, have been calling for federal-provincial collaboration to establish a universal pharmacare program to make medicines more accessible to all Canadians (Hepburn 2016; Hoskins 2014; Lynas 2010). At the federal level, the Liberals’ 2015 election platform included promises to negotiate a new health accord and to work to make prescription drugs more affordable in Canada, promises that ended up in the new health minister’s mandate letter after the Liberals formed government in late 2015 (Canada 2015; Liberal Party of Canada 2015). Perhaps not surprisingly then, in January 2016, when the federal, provincial, and territorial health ministers met for the first time in many years, they created a working group to explore pharmaceutical policies aimed at reducing prices, at improving prescribing and the appropriate use of drugs, and at improving coverage and access to medicines for Canadians (Canada 2016)......

 TABLE 1. Details concerning suggested elements of a renewed strategy for pharmaceutical policy in Canada

 eg. Access: All Canadians have equitable access to medically necessary prescription drugs without financial or other barriers


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