Canadian Pharmacists Association
Canadian Pharmacists Association

Unpacking CPhA's advocacy for national pharmacare in Canada: A prescription for change


Glen Doucet
CEO, Canadian Pharmacists Association




As conversations around pharmacare intensify across Canada, you may be seeing some news coverage about the government’s intention to introduce pharmacare legislation as part of it’s deal with the NDP to stay in power.

Although the Liberal-NDP confidence and supply agreement requires the government to introduce and pass pharmacare legislation by the end of this year, there are many possible scenarios that could happen over the next few weeks.

But before we jump into those, let’s take a look back at what CPhA’s done to advocate on this important file. For many years, we’ve positioned ourselves as a leading voice for increased access to drug therapies and the care that pharmacists provide to patients to make sure that the right medication is getting to the right patient at the right time. We have never wavered from this goal.

Our work has focused on:

1. Policy development and recommendations

CPhA conducts extensive research to develop policies that reflect the current needs and future demands of Canada's diverse population. To inform our pharmacare recommendations, we surveyed the public, we commissioned cost estimates and we consulted patient groups. Our position promotes a universal mixed-payer system that we believe can be implemented with limited disruption for patients, pharmacists and other health providers while increasing access to live saving medications for all.

2. Collaboration with patient groups and other stakeholders

In 2018, we published a review of all policy options with the Health Charities Coalition of Canada and the Best Medicines Coalition, two important patient groups in Canada. Collaboration with patient groups is essential to the design of a pharmacare model that is responsive to the needs of all Canadians. We have also worked with other stakeholder groups to promote the role of pharmacists in the implementation of pharmacare programs and the importance of recognizing the services pharmacists provide every day to patients.

3. Public education and awareness

In an effort to build public awareness about the key impacts of different pharmacare models, we have spearheaded public awareness campaigns to educate Canadians about the benefits of a national pharmacare program. By informing the public, our hope is that we can influence political decision making towards a sustainable system that achieves better drug access.  

4. Direct advocacy

CPhA has met with political leaders and decision-makers from every party to present an unbiased position that we feel best represents the current realities. We’ve also met with many provincial governments at the Council of the Federation meeting this summer in Winnipeg. We were extremely disappointed when the expert advisory committee did not include a pharmacist and we have worked tirelessly to make sure that the pharmacist perspective is front and centre in all discussions.

The road ahead

The parliamentary calendar is tight. If legislation is introduced before the end of the year, it will almost certainly not be passed by then. The NDP have also signaled that it is willing to withdraw from the confidence and supply agreement if the government does not meet its expectations with regards to pharmacare. Whether or not they decide to trigger an election is the subject of much political fodder, but to withdraw from the agreement doesn’t necessarily mean that they will do so.

Canada’s current fiscal reality combined with competing priorities such as housing and inflation suggests that the federal government may favour a universal mixed payer program that targets specific areas of need versus implementing a large scale publicly funded program.

In the meantime, the federal government continues to pursue a number of related programs and policies, such as investing in pilot projects like in PEI, providing funding to provinces and territories for drugs for rare diseases and advancing drug appropriateness through the recently established Canadian Drug Agency. CPhA is at all of these tables and although the timelines for movement on this file may extend into next year, we will continue our advocacy to make sure your voice is represented at every step of the way.

More will become clear in the coming months and we’ll be sharing what we know as it happens!

Glen Doucet
CEO, Canadian Pharmacists Association