A national catastrophic drug plan is critically needed in Canada. Over three million Canadians are unprotected against high drug costs. A wave of new targeted therapies is entering the market, offering promise in once-untreatable diseases but at prices beyond the reach of individual Canadians. The time has come for action.
Canada’s First Ministers committed to a catastrophic drug program in the Health Accords of 2003 and 2004:
|For individual Canadians and their families, Catastrophic Drug Coverage will help to ensure that no one will be denied access to necessary, very high-cost drugs based on where they live, or their ability to pay. No Canadian should suffer undue financial hardship for needed drug therapy.” (Health Accord 2003)|
Yet, despite action by some provinces, the system remains inconsistent and in many areas inadequate.
A growing problem
The problem is large and growing. One in nine residents is not protected against high drug costs and this proportion increases each year (The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, 2002). Many new targeted therapies for severe illnesses are not automatically covered by the public health system because they are taken outside the hospital.
Many observers expect out-of-hospital costs of prescription drugs to grow for a number of reasons:
The net effect is that many Canadians now incur high levels of prescription drug costs that were inconceivable only a few years ago. (The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, October 2002)
Time to act
Although there remain concerns, our history of cooperation has shown that these are surmountable. The time for government to seize the opportunity of ensuring access by all Canadians to life-saving therapies is now.
Catastrophic Drug Coverage in Canada
Karin Phillips, Social Affairs Division, September 01, 2009
Library of Parliament
“Despite this progress, some Canadians still lack access to catastrophic drug coverage. This paper provides an overview of catastrophic drug coverage in Canada and current challenges facing the system, and it examines the potential for creating a national catastrophic drug coverage plan, as envisioned by the first ministers.”
Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology Study on the state of the health care system in Canada (1999-2002)
“Gaps in the Health Care Safety Net: As pointed out in the Committee’s fourth report, there are presently serious gaps in our health care safety net, particularly with respect to drugs and home care. For example, a number of Canadians are not protected against the consequences of having to pay catastrophic drug costs…. If Canada is to have national standards in health care, and not only in hospital and doctor care as we do now, more money will clearly be required in the form of additional government funding in order to expand public coverage and reduce or close gaps in the health care safety net.”
Commission on the future of health care in Canada: The Romanow Commission
n April 2001, the Prime Minister established the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada. It’s mandate was to review medicare, engage Canadians in a national dialogue on its future, and make
recommendations to enhance the system’s quality and sustainability.
The proposed new Catastrophic Drug Transfer should be used to reduce disparities in coverage across the country by covering a portion of the rapidly growing costs of provincial and territorial drug plans.
2003 First Minister’s Accord on Health Care Renewal
“First Ministers agree that no Canadian should suffer undue financial hardship for needed drug therapy. Accordingly, as an integral component of these reforms, First Ministers will take measures, by the end of 2005/06, to ensure that Canadians, wherever they live, have reasonable access to catastrophic drug coverage.
As a priority, First Ministers agree to further collaborate to promote optimal drug use, best practices in drug prescription and better manage the costs of all drugs including generic drugs, to ensure that drugs are safe, effective and accessible in a timely and cost-effective fashion.”