On Labour Day 2017, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) launched a campaign calling for universal prescription drug coverage for all Canadians. Canada has the second highest prescription drug costs in the world, next to the United States, and we are the only developed country in the world with universal health care that does not have a universal pharmaceutical drug plan.
“Today, 3.5 million Canadians can’t afford to fill their prescriptions,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff. “Nobody should have to choose between paying for groceries or the medication they need.”
Approximately 8.4 million working Canadians are not covered for prescription drugs, and the lower their wages the more likely they are not covered. Women and young workers also are less likely to have coverage. Federal, provincial and local governments already cover many Canadians, such as members of the armed services, civil servants and social assistance recipients. It is estimated that the pooling of these public sector plans and the countless private sector plans would save over 6 billion dollars. These projected savings would, in large part, be the result of bulk purchasing. An example of this is found in New Zealand, where a year’s supply of the cholesterol drug Lipitor costs just $15, compared to $811 in Canada.
It is clear that Canadians are in favour of Universal Pharmacare. In a 2014 Angus Reid poll, 23 per cent reported that in the previous 12 months they or someone in their household did not take their medicines as prescribed, if at all, because of the cost. It also reported that 91 per cent of Canadians support the concept of a national program that would provide universal access to prescription drugs.
OSSTF/FEESO is joining the CLC and our affiliates in the fight for Universal Pharmacare for all Canadians. Over the next year, the CLC, with local labour councils and unions like OSSTF/FEESO, will be bringing this campaign to your community. Take the opportunity to personally get involved. In the meantime, you can find more information and add your name to the CLC’s petition on pharmacare at aplanforeveryone.ca.