What are Canadians really talking about when they talk about pharmacare? 

In many ways, national pharmacare remains an opaque concept in Canada. The mechanisms used vary, with some jurisdictions offering access to medications in a fully publicly funded and administered system, while others use mandatory private insurance. As a result of this varied application, the word pharmacare seems to be lost in translation. 

Given the renewed national appetite for a prescription drug strategy and innovative policy development, Global Public Affairs set out to answer this question. We believe it is critical for stakeholders to not only understand the policy process attributed to a pharmacare strategy, but also to appreciate the intricacies of the politics surrounding such a pan-Canadian framework. A comprehensive understanding of both components will increase the likelihood of effective stakeholder engagement. 

Canadians, governments, employers, private health insurance providers, the pharmaceutical industry, and health professionals all have variable perspectives on how best to provide the public with access to necessary prescription drugs. While there are many differences in each of these stakeholder’s approaches, there are also many parallels and opportunities for collaboration. 

Since the inception of Medicare in the 1960s – the celebrated underpinning of Canada’s health care system– discussions about the inclusion of prescription medications have ebbed and flowed. Despite the work done to date, there is still much to be done from coast-to-coast if Canada is to see a national prescription drug strategy implemented in the near future.  

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