Pangaea Express: Interim Pharmacare Report - What Does It Really Mean

March 6, 2019

By Suzanne SolmanMarla Weingarten

Following months and months of dialogue on national pharmacare, the government held a press conference today to share the Advisory Council’s interim report and its recommendations going forward. Eric Hoskins, Chair, Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare announced the following foundational elements to ensure the successful implementation of national pharmacare:

  1. Create a national drug agency.
  2. Develop a comprehensive, evidence-based national formulary.
  3. Invest in drug data and information technology (IT) systems.

Okay, so let’s break this down to understand what this really means.

  • The Council recommends the creation of a national drug agency that will conduct health technology assessments, negotiate drug pricing and terms of listing and monitor real-world safety and effectiveness. Can you say Health Canada, CADTH, pCPA …. So in essence, he has added items to his list that are already in place!
  • With respect to the comprehensive, evidence-based national formulary, the Council recommends a framework that would serve as a baseline for harmonizing coverage across Canada. Would this national drug formulary be an essential list of medicines that would cover around one-third of all medicines currently covered by private plans? Whether Canada will maintain a private-public system has not yet been determined.*
  • With respect to the third element of drug data and information technology (IT) systems, how can one refute the need for a coordinated technological approach to an efficient data collection process. Here once again, some of this framework has already been initiated through PrecribeIT and Canada Health Infoway.

The Council noted that “prescription drug spending in Canada has grown significantly over the past few decades, increasing from $2.6 billion in 1985 to $34 billion in 2018, and anticipated to grow to more than $50 billion by 2028.” Not to mention the fact that drug spending is the second largest category of spending in healthcare.

What continually gets left behind in this message is the fact that this $34 billion includes all prescribed drugs, not just patented medicines. As well, it does not take into account the rebates applied to public drug plan that according to the Canadian Health Policy Institute* are close to 30% for brand name drugs. What is also continuously ignored are the savings innovative medicines have on the health care system overall. The savings to hospital spend are numerous – from reducing or eliminating hospital care for patients who can now be cured of certain conditions, to those who can administer specialty medicines in the comfort of their own home saves the system time and time again. When will the Feds decide to knock down those siloed budgets?

So, in essence, this “breaking news” announced this morning was nothing new, just some facts we already know and of course some still missing… with a bow tied around them.

The final report is to be released “later this spring,” which could really mean anytime between March and June. We will keep everyone posted when the final report is presented this spring.

For more information, please contact Suzanne Solman, Director or Marla Weingarten, Consultant at The Pangaea Group.

*CHPI Facts about the cost of patented drugs in Canada 2018 Edition.