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Liberals take first step toward national pharmacare plan

The Liberals’ new budget paved the way for a national pharma plan sometime in the future. This new agency will buy drugs in bulk and result in drastically cutting the cost of medication.

In a sign of just how expensive pharmacare could be, the government is also promising to spend $500 million a year, starting in 2022, just on subsidizing drugs that treat rare diseases, which have few patients to split huge research and development costs.

The government said it intends to work with provinces, territories and other partners to develop the mandate for the national drug agency, with Health Canada to receive $35 million over four years starting in 2019-2020 to create an office to support the plan.

The budget also includes plans to create a national formulary, a list of drugs that have been evaluated for both efficacy and cost-effectiveness. Lower-tier governments now assess drugs on their own, duplicating much of the work.

The parliamentary budget office has estimated the cost of a pharmacare plan at about $20 billion a year, something many economists say won’t be possible without increasing taxes considerably and the economy performing a lot better on a consistent basis.

Canada’s spending on medication has gone from $2.6 billion in 1985 to $33.7 billion in 2018. People take more drugs to manage more conditions than they used to — living longer, and better, but at considerable cost.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information says drugs are the fastest-growing component in health spending but that most people’s medication needs aren’t covered by public health insurance, unlike care provided in hospitals and through visits to the doctor.

Canada’s current patchwork of drug coverage — including more than 100 public programs and 100,000 private insurance plans — is not well equipped to handle the increasingly expensive drugs now coming to market, the government said in its budget document.

The interim report said drug spending in Canada is expected to surpass $50 billion by 2028.

To maintain this level of health spending, taxes will be going up and Canadians will have even less disposable income leaving them even more dependent on government services and income supplement in old age. And given that these drugs are prolonging the lives of Canadians seems to be a prescription for an unhealthy economic situation down the line. -CINEWS

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