New study from the Canadian Medical Journal shows pharmacare won't break the bank

"The question no longer is can we afford a universal prescription drug program, it's can we afford not to?" — James Clancy, NUPGE National President

Toronto (17 March 2015) — A new study published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal asserts that a national pharmacare program would reduce prescription drug costs by billions of dollars and would not need tax increases to fund it. 

National pharmacare program would save Canadians billions

The analysis, authored by Dr. Danielle Martin, vice-president of Women's College Hospital, Steven Morgan, Michael Law, Jamie Daw and Liza Abraham, confronts the long-standing opposition — it would cost too much — to a national program. The research shows that creating a national pharmacare program would actually reduce the public and private spending on prescription drugs by $7.3 billion per year. 

Canada is the only country with universal health care that does not include a universal prescription drug coverage. 

Economies of scale would reduce costs 

The study says that savings can be recovered through better prices for generic drugs, lower costs for brand name drugs and smarter prescription practices — using generic drugs instead of brand name when the situation allows for it. Having one major purchaser allows for savings due to the economies of scale in price negotiations. 

In addition to those savings, the authors point out that one out of 10 people does not take prescription drugs due to the costs involved. If more people had coverage, there would be savings in the health care system. 

Public and private sector to benefit from a universal prescription drug program

But it's not just the public health care system that would benefit. The study suggests that the private sector would save $9.6 billion a year at best, and $6.6 billion at worst. 

Canadians spent just over $22 billion on drugs in 2012–2013. Under a national pharmacare program, spending would drop by 32 per cent to $15.1 billion for a savings of about $7.3 billion under a base-scenario estimate, according to the paper.

"This study put exact numbers to what we've been saying for a very long time," says James Clancy, National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE). "It is not impossible to create a national pharmacare program  to ensure everyone who needs prescription medication has access to it without breaking the bank. In fact, this study goes further, saying that both the public and private sector will save money if a program is introduced."

"The question no longer is can we afford a universal prescription drug program?" said Clancy. "It's can we afford not to have one?"


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 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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