Sunday, July 26, 2015

More On Pharmacare

The other day I wrote about an article in the Globe that called into question support for the notion of a national pharmacare program that would see drugs paid for by the government as a fitting and necessary complement to our universal healthcare. I examined the methodology and bias involved in the author's claims that people are not really keen on such a program.

In my view, what 'the people' want is rarely a consideration in public policy-making, unless there are crass political gains to be made. It is one of the reasons I like to read letters to the editor, which offer a more direct insight into people's views on issues. I am therefore reproducing three letters from today's Star on the topic of national drug coverage, two of which support the notions for economic, social and reasons:

Pharmacare to fill the gap, Editorial July 19
The demand for a national plan covering prescription drug costs in Canada has now turned into a flood – with our citizens’ backing for the pharmacare concept rising to over 90 per cent.

Studies published in leading journals indicate that medications save lives by keeping people healthy and that Canada would be saving around $9 billion annually by instituting a national pharmacare plan covering prescription drugs costs – and resorting to logical initiatives such as bulk-buying of drugs.

Despite the weight of evidence, and the push provided by provinces such as Ontario, bold federal leadership in this area has been lacking thus far. We are the only country globally that does not cover the cost of prescription medicine despite Canada’s well established and very successful universal health care system.

It is hoped that the upcoming federal elections will spur heated debates about the need for pharmacare to cover the cost of prescription medicine for Canadians, leading to healthy outcomes for patients and taxpayers alike.

It is time for our federal government to get started – as the key to success in this key health-care area is staring in Canada’s face. Stephen Harper would do well to heed Mark Twain’s sage advice: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Rudy Fernandes, Mississauga

Surely this study could have picked a better example than Lipitor at “more than $811 a year.” Generic forms of Lipitor and other statin drugs have been available for several years at about $125 for a year’s supply.

If this misrepresentation is the best example that the Pharmacare2020 study can find, what are we to make of the rest of its conclusions? If in fact there are further bulk discounts available, it would be best accomplished through provincial cooperation in the buying process, not by introducing another wasteful level of bureaucracy at the federal level.

This is just another veiled attempt to shake more dollars out of the federal government for something that is the responsibility of the provinces – the delivery of health care services.

Don Mustill, Markham

Thanks for drawing attention to yet another well researched study, Pharmacare 2020, that demonstrates that a national pharmacare plan covering drug costs for all Canadians is not only sorely needed but is economically feasible. All that remains is political will.

Perhaps if we all asked candidates who come knocking on our doors in the coming federal election what their party will do for the millions of Canadians who do not have their prescriptions dispensed for financial reasons, the message might get through.

Bill Wensley, Cobourg

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