Canada’s prescription drug supply under threat — Canada needs pharmacare now! | National Union of Public and General Employees

Canada’s prescription drug supply under threat — Canada needs pharmacare now!

"U.S. plans to allow imports from Canada threaten the availability and affordability of our prescription drugs. The surest way to protect patients in Canada is to ensure we have affordable, secure and accessible medicines by implementing pharmacare." — Larry Brown, NUPGE President

Ottawa (02 Aug. 2019) — U.S. plans to allow prescription drug imports from Canada threaten Canada's prescription drug prices and will do nothing to fix the broken American system. Under severe criticism for having the highest prescription drug prices in the world, the Trump administration has chosen a path that does nothing to lower drug prices in the United States, but will increase drug shortages and prices for Canadians.

Canadian govt. warned U.S. against opening border to drug imports

The Canadian government has already alerted U.S. officials to Canada's opposition to the United States reversing a ban on drug imports. An April briefing for Canadian officials as reported by Reuters says, “Canada does not support actions that could adversely affect the supply of prescription drugs in Canada and potentially raise costs of prescription drugs for Canadians.” This was produced in response to at least 10 states passing or proposing laws to allow Canadian prescription drug imports and the concern that the U.S. federal government will reverse the long-standing ban on importation, as is now set to occur.

Pharmacare the only way to protect Canadian patients and lower drug costs

In June, the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare clearly outlined steps the government should take to achieve universal, single-payer public pharmacare. The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has firmly supported a universal, single-payer public pharmacare plan as one of the  most important steps governments can take to protect our health care system. Costs would be significantly lowered and access to prescription drugs for patients would be increased. If there is no action taken, the expected high levels of demand from the U.S. will lead to higher prices and increased shortages of necessary prescription drugs for Canadians. Implementing pharmacare will allow governments to negotiate with drug companies collectively to guarantee the security of supply and lower prices. 

Trump has raised the stakes 

The Trump announcement has increased the urgency for Canada to act on these recommendations, and do so quickly. Clearly the upcoming U.S. election has forced Trump to defend himself against the attacks over high U.S. drug prices. Unfortunately, his action does nothing to tackle the broken U.S. system. Instead, he’s opting to take actions that undermine health care in Canada. But there will also be a federal election here in Canada, and the way to blunt the threat that Trump's actions present is for all political parties to accept the recommendations of the Advisory Council and implement pharmacare. Action is needed. And the overwhelming evidence gathered over decades is unambiguous: Canadians would save billions of dollars and increase accessibility by simply doing what every other country with a national public health care system does — cover prescription drugs.  

Canada must take action

In the April briefing obtained by Reuters, Health Canada officials stated that Canada stood ready to "take action to ensure Canadians have uninterrupted access to the prescription drugs they need." The action that must be taken cannot stop at looking at ways to impede the flow of prescription drugs into the United States. This may solve the immediate threat, but evidence shows the solution lies in implementing pharmacare. Any government that is serious about providing Canadians with quality public health care must commit to national pharmacare.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE


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