EDMONTON – The recommendations of the federal advisory council on pharmacare are a welcome step towards the badly needed implementation of a national prescription drug program, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) vice-president Bonnie Gostola said Wednesday.

After a year of consultations with Canadians, the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare released three recommendations: that the federal government implement a national drug agency to oversee the program, create an evidence-based list of prescription drugs, and make investments in information-technology systems and data on prescription drugs.

“We agree that these steps are necessary to laying a strong and sustainable foundation for an eventual national pharmacare program. We urge the federal government to implement the council’s recommendations without delay so that Canadians do not have to continue to struggle with the costs of their prescription medications,” Gostola said.

Canada is currently the only country with universal health care that does not also have a pharmacare program, Gostola noted. According to a 2015 Angus Reid poll, more than 20 per cent of Albertans reported that someone in their household hadn’t taken medication as prescribed because they couldn’t afford to, while a 2017 Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report estimated that a national pharmacare plan could save Canadians almost $11 billion annually.

In releasing its recommendations, the federal advisory council noted the current patchwork of provincial drug coverage and workplace health benefits is leading to poorer health and high costs for Canadians, who face some of the highest prescription drug costs in the world.

“Too many Canadians are going without their prescribed medications because the costs are too high. A successful universal health care program must also include pharmacare coverage, or risk leaving people struggling,” Gostola said. “No one should have to choose between filling their prescriptions or paying for necessities. Albertans, and all Canadians, deserve better.”