A national prescription drug plan will benefit all Canadians

United Nurses of Alberta President Heather Smith (right), moderated a panel discussion about the benefits of pharmacare in Canada. Panelists included (left to right) Steve Morgan, Sandra Azocar and Hassan Yussuff.

A national prescription drug plan will benefit all Canadians. That was the message delivered to more than 200 Edmontonians attending a town hall meeting organized by the Canadian Labour Congress on Nov. 22, 2017. 

Moderated by United Nurses of Alberta President Heather Smith, the meeting featured discussion by a panel of pharmacare advocates, including CLC President Hassan Yussuff, Friends of Medicare executive director Sandra Azocar and University of British Columbia professor Steve Morgan.

“This is a fight we have to win. We are starting this movement and we’re going to finish it,” said Yussuff. “Because we’ve waited too long. A national pharmacare plan will benefit every Canadian.”

“We need a national drug program. People should not have to choose between groceries and the medication they need,” said Azocar.

Canada is the only developed country in the world with a universal health care program that does not include a universal prescription drug plan. The CLC estimates that an annual investment of $1 billion by the federal government would translate into $7.3 billion in annual savings by Canadians on prescription drugs.

“There is an absolutely compelling case for universal pharmacare," said Morgan, who has been studying pharmacare for the past 20 years. “Access to medicines is a human right. But evidence is only going to get us so far. What’s going to get us there is advocacy."

“It’s going to be a tough fight. Because those who are going to lose that $4-billion in profit are well-heeled and they’re going to fight hard to keep that profit,” Morgan said.

The Edmonton meeting was the first in a series of town hall meetings that will be held across Canada in the coming months. Upcoming town hall meetings will be held in Regina, Saskatchewan on Nov. 23 and in Oshawa, Ontario on Nov. 29