Fifty years ago, we implemented public health care in Canada, and from the beginning it was clear that we must not stop at hospitals and doctors; we needed to expand the system into the community and also to cover prescription drugs.
In 2004, when the last health accord was being negotiated, Canada’s premiers shocked many when they made their call for the federal government to implement national pharmacare.
Unfortunately, the Liberal federal government of the day only called for a more limited pharmaceutical strategy, which allowed the following Conservative government to sideline the initiative altogether.
At the end of 2016, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions released a report titled Down the Drain: How Canada Has Wasted $62 Billion Health Care Dollars without pharmacare, in which economist Hugh Mackenzie calculates the disturbing amount Canada has wasted over the past 10 years by not implementing national pharmacare.
Today the rate of waste continues to grow, adding even more to the growing missed opportunity of pharmacare. This year, people living in Canada will waste an additional $7.3 billion, equaling $14,000 squandered health care dollars every minute of every day, due to Canadians paying among the world’s highest prices for prescription drugs.
Canada’s nurses fully supported the premiers’ call for pharmacare in 2004 and continue to call for pharmacare today. We call upon all governments to take the necessary steps to secure this national strategy for people in Canada.