Canada’s medication crisis 

The statistics paint a stark picture: half of Canadians live paycheque to paycheque. 7.5 million – more than three times the population of the Atlantic provinces – lack coverage for the medications they need.    

Imagine being forced to choose between filling a prescription or putting food on the table. 

It’s a reality for over a quarter of Canadians cutting back on groceries, delaying bills, rent, or mortgage payments, even going into debt to afford the medication they need to stay healthy.  

Nearly a quarter of Canadians are splitting pills, skipping doses, or skipping prescriptions altogether due to cost.  

Enough is enough. 

A patchwork system 

Hospitals offer universal prescription drug coverage, but outside of hospital walls, coverage is fragmented, with over 100 public and 113,000 private plans.    

The federal government covers Armed Forces, RCMP, veterans, and Indigenous people, while most provinces and territories subsidize medications for seniors and those on social assistance, as well as catastrophic coverage for those with astronomical medical costs. But what about everyone else?  

Women, young workers, racialized people, migrants, and seniors are less likely to have the coverage they need. And for many in the 2SLGBTQI+ community, discrimination in the job market means missing out on good jobs with comprehensive drug benefits.    

Even those with drug plans face rising co-payments and deductibles.    

It’s no surprise that an overwhelming 9 in 10 Canadians support universal public pharmacare. Now it’s time to make pharmacare a reality. 

Towards universal pharmacare 

Workers and their unions have been at the forefront of advocating for affordable medications for all. Now, Canada is making progress towards universal, single-payer pharmacare.    

In February 2024, the government introduced Bill C-64, An Act Respecting Pharmacare. This legislation could save millions of people up to $1,700 per year for diabetes medications and up to $300 per year for contraceptives.   

The Pharmacare Act is the biggest upgrade to our health care system since public health care was introduced, but it is only the first step.  

We need to keep pushing for a truly universal, single-payer pharmacare program, as recommended by the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, which was headed up by former Ontario health minister Dr. Eric Hoskins.  

Through bulk purchasing power, universal pharmacare can make life more affordable and provide fair access to medications for all Canadians.  

Putting money back in workers’ pockets   

Canada is the only developed country with a universal health care program that doesn’t include universal public pharmacare. Our current approach is inefficient and costly, benefiting pharmaceutical and private insurance companies while everyday people foot the bill.    

Universal public pharmacare isn’t just about policies; it’s about safeguarding our health. A universal prescription drug plan will also boost our economy – which is good for everyone. 

A full universal pharmacare program will cost $15.3 billion per year and will:    

Universal public pharmacare will also save businesses and employers $16.6 billion – savings that can be reinvested in innovation and technology, skills training, and better benefits for workers. It just makes sense.