Person emptying a bottle of prescription medicine into their handBy January 1, 2022, Canadians were supposed to have access to a list of essential medicines that would be covered under Canada’s new pharmacare legislation. Instead, Jean-Yves Duclos, the Minister of Health, postponed regulatory changes that would have better protected the public from excessive drug prices. It’s time to hold the Liberals to their commitment to pharmacare for all.

If the Liberal government had followed the recommendations of its Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, Canada would already be well on its way toward universal pharmacare. New legislation in line with the Canada Health Act would have been in place guaranteeing comprehensive and public pharmacare. A new Canadian Drug Agency would have been working to lower Canada’s steep prescription drug costs. Families would save on average $350 per year.

The case for pharmacare is clear. Canada is the only developed country in the world with universal health care that does not include prescription drugs. We have the third highest per-person costs for prescription drugs, trailing only the United States and Switzerland. And we pay the world’s second highest prices for generic drugs. Canada’s current patchwork system of over 100,000 private and 100 public insurance plans is inefficient, expensive, and unfair.

The government’s Advisory Council recommended strengthening patented medicines regulations to lower the price for all payers as a step toward universal public pharmacare. Despite this, the Liberal government postponed the patented medicine regulatory changes for the fourth time on December 23, 2021. Big pharma has been fighting these changes as they will lower their huge profit margins.

These delays mean people in Canada continue to struggle to afford patented medicines. Many of these people are experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic, 25 per cent of households could not afford prescription medication because of high costs. Up to 4 million people in Canada don’t have drug coverage.

It’s time for the Liberal government to side with Canadians, not the pharmaceutical corporations.