Today’s interim report of the national pharmacare advisory council is a decent first step, but it falls short of what Canadians and experts alike have been demanding – universal public pharmacare.

The council’s recommendation to create a national drug agency is a positive first step, but the government’s decision to simply add a few more layers to the patchwork of coverage, rather than address the root issue, is a disappointment.

CUPE is concerned that the government will propose a drug program that will only cover Canadians who don’t already have access to insurance, rather than a true universal pharmacare program. Such a program would see the government subsidizing private employers who have chosen not to provide a drug coverage plan to their employees.

“Canadians have said loud and clear, they want and they need universal public pharmacare,” said CUPE National President Mark Hancock. “Unfortunately, it seems like the Prime Minister has only been listening to insurance company executives on this important file.”

CUPE is also concerned that the government appears unwilling to commit to how extensive a national drug formulary will be, how many drugs will be covered, and how that list will be grown over time.

Canada’s current patchwork of private and public insurance plans is inefficient, expensive, and unfair. Furthermore, Canada is the only developed country in the world with universal health care that does not cover prescription drugs. At the same time, we have the second-highest prescription drug prices per person in the world (after the United States), and one of the highest rates of people who can’t afford to take their medicine as prescribed.

“CUPE has long argued, alongside a strong consensus of health care providers, economists, unions, and NGOs, that the best - and only real solution - to the prescription drug crisis facing Canadians is to implement a universal public pharmacare program,” said CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury.