Canadian Pharmacists Association
Canadian Pharmacists Association


The health of Canadians depends on quality pharmaceutical care. Prescription drugs and vaccines can prevent and manage disease, reduce hospital stays, replace surgical treatment, and enable patients to function productively in their communities. In 2017, total drug spending is forecast to make up 16.4% of health expenditure in Canada, or approximately $39.8 billion. Half of Canadian adults take at least one prescription drug, while 40% of seniors and those with chronic diseases take four or more.

When taken appropriately, prescription medicines are often the best and most cost-effective treatment. The data suggests that over 90% of Canadians have drug coverage under the current mix of private and public insurance and do not have any difficulty affording their medications. However, some Canadians are falling through the cracks either because they are uninsured or because they are underinsured.

What is Pharmacare?

Proposals for a publicly-funded pharmaceutical plan (or "pharmacare" as it is often known) have been debated at key junctures since the introduction of Medicare. In response to the rapid growth of medication use in hospitals and in community settings, federal, provincial and territorial governments have put in place programs and policies to improve drug access and affordability.

Renewed discussions on plans for a “national” or “pan-Canadian” pharmacare program have shown that the concept of “pharmacare” means different things to different people. Discussions typically center on access and equity (coverage), the drug prices paid by Canadians, a common formulary, and appropriate drug therapy.

Key Priorities

In 2015 the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) developed a series of key principles and priorities for pharmacare, based on the belief that Canadians deserve access to medically-necessary medications and services that support appropriate medication use, regardless of income or postal code. As the landscape evolved over the past few years, these principles were adapted into five key policy recommendations to support a vision for a pan-Canadian PharmAccord.

A New Canadian PharmAccord

Federal, provincial and territorial governments have made considerable progress in establishing a pan-Canadian approach to pharmacare in recent years, and Canadians are benefiting from these efforts. CPhA believes that we can build on these successes and evolve our current system to truly address the gaps and challenges that currently exist within drug policies and programs in Canada. This is why, CPhA recommends the creation of a new PharmAccord that leverages existing collaborative efforts, recognizing the effective programs that currently exist across the country and respecting provincial/ territorial responsibility over health. A new PharmAccord would:

  • close the gaps in coverage for Canadians;
  • harmonize catastrophic drug coverage;
  • develop a minimum comprehensive national drug formulary;
  • ensure the drug system is both affordable and sustainable; and,
  • leverage the experience and knowledge of pharmacists to provide better care to patients, at a lower cost to government.

Learn more: Rx: PharmAccord – A Prescription for a Healthier Canada

Better Pharmacare for Patients: Evaluating Policy Options

Better Pharmacare for Patients: Evaluating Policy Options is a joint discussion paper developed by the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA), the Best Medicines Coalition (BMC) and the Health Charities Coalition of Canada (HCCC). Meant to inform the national pharmacare discussion, the report provides a patient-led assessment of five leading policy options to improve drug access for Canadians based on the principles of equity, timeliness of access, appropriateness of therapy, affordability and sustainability.

What Canadians Are Saying

Renewed national discussion on a pan-Canadian pharmacare framework requires clear evidence for policymakers and a clear national consensus on priorities important to Canadians. CPhA, as the national voice of Canadian pharmacists, is committed to gathering this evidence and building consensus. In 2015, CPhA conducted a national survey on Canadian attitudes towards pharmacare. Here is what Canadians are saying.

  • 79% Canadian’s support the idea of a pan-Canadian pharmacare program, but they are concerned about limiting choice, administration and costs
  • Canadians strongly support pharmacists and pharmacy services as part of a pan-Canadian pharmacare program
  • A plurality of Canadians support a pharmacare program that targets those without an existing public or private plan