Pharmacare: what are the costs for patients and taxpayers?

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Authors: Brett J Skinner, Ph.D.; Mark Rovere, Ph.D. candidate; Neil Mohindra, M.B.A.; Kimberley Tran, M.A. 

Since 2013, several academics, activist groups and unions have been vigorously advocating for the establishment of a government-run monopoly over drug insurance known as Pharmacare. Pharmacare advocates infer that this will be either a federal program or a federal-provincial-territorial intergovernmental cooperative program in order to achieve national scale and standards. The Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) published a study (Morgan et al 2015) that estimated the cost of establishing universal public coverage of prescription drugs in Canada under a new Pharmacare program.  

Our study asks several important questions about Pharmacare that have not been adequately addressed by Pharmacare advocates, including:

How many Canadians are insured, uninsured and under-insured for their prescription drugs?

How will access to newer more innovative treatments be affected by Pharmacare and what are the health implications for patients?

Under realistic assumptions, how much cost will be shifted from private plans onto taxpayers under Pharmacare?

What are the indirect economic costs from a government take-over of private insurance?

What are the NAFTA implications?

How do other countries achieve universal drug insurance coverage?

How is the existing pluralistic public-private system in Canada structured and which federal/provincial public drug plans provide the best/worst access to prescription drugs?

We answer these questions and present evidence to suggest that there are at least four reasons why Canadians should be skeptical about Pharmacare. 

Open Access Sponsorship

Free public access to this article was made possible by crowd-funded sales of the article to our readers, and accelerated by independent research grants provided by GSK Canada and Servier Canada.

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