Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare – Recommendations

news release June 12 2019 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


BC Health Coalition urges all parties to adopt the Advisory Committee’s recommendations

Vancouver ­– The BC Health Coalition is celebrating the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare’s recommendation to create a universal public pharmacare program. 

“We’re pleased and unsurprised that the Advisory Council has recommended a system that ensures all Canadians get the healthcare coverage that they need,” says Adrienne Yeung, BC Health Coalition co-chair. “This report further confirms the findings of previous reports and what people in our communities already know which is that people shouldn’t have to choose between medication and other necessities.”

The Advisory Council’s recommendations included the creation of a new drug agency as well as an opt-in period for the provinces. The BCHC has advocated for a system that is publicly provided and comprehensive in medications offered. National universal pharmacare will provide the ability to negotiate better prices on common medications and improve public safety through better prescribing. 

“As Dr. Hoskins said, people are already bearing the costs of these medications,” says Yeung. “We will be looking for all federal political parties to include a national universal pharmacare plan in their platforms as well as the timeline for implementation. Canadians can’t wait any longer.”

The BC Health Coalition is a democratic, inclusive, and consensus-based community of individuals and organizations that advocate for evidence-based improvements to the public health care system, stimulate public education on health care issues, and drive positive change to the health care system through campaigns across the province.

For more information contact: phone: 604.349.9079 | email: |

The Advisory Committee’s final report:

  • Clearly and explicitly recommends that national pharmacare is universal, comprehensive, accessible, portable, and public
  • Flexibility for the provinces
  • Ability to purchase additional private insurance
  • Co-payment maximum of $2 for essential medicines, $5 per prescription, annual maximum of $100 per household
  • People receiving social assistance, government disability benefits or the federal Guaranteed Income Supplement benefit be exempt from copayments
  • Begin work in 2020
  • Implementation of essential medicines by 2022, comprehensive formulary by 2027
  • Changes to intergovernmental financing arrangements requires consent of the Parliament of Canada and at least 70 per cent of participating provinces and territories representing two-thirds of their combined population (!)
  • Legislation will have the same principles as but be separate from Canada Health Act
  • Initial opt-in for provinces
  • National drug agency to negotiate prices

Key messages

Universal national pharmacare will both help people who are struggling to pay for their medications and save billions of dollars each year. 

The recommendation to create a national pharmacare system will help people access necessary medications instead of pouring more money into big pharmaceutical companies.

We will be looking for universal national pharmacare in the election platform each party along with a plan and timeline for implementation. 

When filling a prescription, you should have to show your health card, not your credit card. 

Other quick hits

Everyday people are falling through the cracks of a patchwork system – 1 in 4 households can’t afford their prescriptions. 

The economic case for pharmacare is clear – what we are waiting for the political will. 

Over 1 million Canadians are having to choose between buying the medications they need and putting food on the table. 

Canada is the only country that has national healthcare without a national pharmacare program and this has resulted in higher priced medications and people who aren’t able to access necessary medications. 

BCHC position FAQ

Who should be covered: everyone, without any barriers to access 

What drugs should be covered?

A national formulary should determine which drugs are necessary and an independent drug agency with no connection to the pharmaceutical industry should recommend which drugs are covered.

How will we pay for it?

We are already paying for these medications. This system should be paid for the same way we pay for our medicare system which is through public funding.

Why is national Pharmacare important?

Equitable access regardless of age, health condition, or economic status

Affordable medicines dues to lower administrative costs

Reduced health care costs by decreasing rate of prescription nonadherence

Increased Safety and appropriate prescribing

What is the current BC pharmacare plan?

Enrolment is by family and assistance is based on family net income. You pay your family’s prescription costs until a certain amount of money is spent on eligible prescription, then pharmacare begins paying 70% of costs. When the family maximum is reached, pharmacare pays 100% of the costs. People are falling through the cracks. 

Why do we need a national pharmacare plan if we already have a plan for BC?

There are over 100 patchwork pharmacare programs around Canada. If we combine all these programs into one, we could save Canadians money and it would be more efficient in delivering medications to those who need it most. 

How much money would a universal pharmacare program cost?

It would save at least $4.2 BILLION every year!

Why can’t we use with private insurance instead?

Private insurance doesn’t provide the opportunity to decrease in the cost of medications through bulk buying. It also creates an unfair system where some of us are lucky enough to have prescription drug coverage through our employers and others do not. Around 700,000 people in Canada have no prescription drug coverage at all – many of these people work lower-paid jobs or have precarious employment.


How many Canadian’s do not take their medicines as prescribed? 

1 in 10 Canadians do not take their medicines as prescribed because of costs. This affects nearly 1 in 4 Canadian households.

How much do Canadians spend on prescriptions? 

On average, Canadians spend $926 per person on prescriptions per year, through a combination of public, private and out-of-pocket expenditure

How does Canada’s current prescription drug expenditure compare with countries with a universal, single payer pharmacare plan?

In countries with a universal, single-payer coverage of prescription drugs, the average per-person cost is $77. In Canada, which has a mixed system of private and public financing, the average costs are $158.

How will the federal government make medications affordable? 

With a universal pharmacare program in Canada, the federal government will become the primary price negotiator and purchaser of prescription medications on behalf of Canadians (as opposed to Canadians purchasing their prescriptions individually from suppliers at a set cost). This will allow for the decrease in the cost of medication. 

How will the government pay for the plan?

The government can close tax loopholes and build a fairer tax system. This will help improve Canada’s social services as well. By closing some of the tax loopholes, the government could recover about $15 billion every year in lost tax revenues and use this revenue to finance the pharmacare program. 

How much would the Canadian health care system save by implementing a national pharmacare plan in terms of reducing medicine underuse, overuse and misuse? 

By helping to reduce problems of medicine underuse, overuse, and misuse, Pharmacare would dramatically improve patient health while saving the health care system up to $5 billion per year.

How can the Government ensure participation of and consistency between all provinces and territories when implementing the national pharmacare plan? 

Just like Medicare, the federal government can fund a portion of the budget for program and operational expenses. Because the federal government pays for 25% of Medicare costs, including 25% of the cost of drugs used in hospitals, the federal share of Pharmacare costs should be set at 25% of the program budget.

How can Pharmacare be designed and budgeted to succeed? 

There can be an incremental start to the program implementation, but it must also involve a quick progression to a comprehensive program that is sufficiently well-resourced and comprehensive to ensure that no Canadian is left behind.


Universal national pharmacare must be:

Public and single payer – our current patchwork system of private and public plans (which leave many people without drug coverage) is expensive, inefficient and has been shown to leave 1 in 10 Canadians unable to afford their medication. A national drug plan will ensure everyone has access to the medicine they need, delivered in the most cost-effective and efficiently administered way. 

Comprehensive – the list of drugs to be covered (the formulary) must be comprehensive. The evaluation and approval of drugs, and the guidelines for prescribing them, must be done by an independent group of experts (especially independent of drug companies). This will ensure drugs will be safe, effective and prescribed appropriately. 

Universal – everyone is entitled to the same level of care – regardless of your age, where you live or where you work. It means having a program where every province and territory would receive federal funding and oversight to ensure there is the same standard of service across the country. 

Accessible – medicine is just as essential to our health care as doctor visits and hospital stays, and there are no co-pays or deductibles for those services. Research has shown that any additional cost to health care services such as a co-pay will affect people’s ability to access those services. There should be no barriers for access to prescription drugs. 

Affordable – a national drug plan that covers everyone will be less expensive than our current complicated patchwork of public and private plans, that leave many people putting their health care at risk by not being able to afford their medicine. Every independent economic study has shown that a universal, single-payer pharmacare program would be anywhere from $4 – $11 billion cheaper for Canadians than our current system. 

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