Ottawa--Canada can afford to extend Medicare to cover pharmaceuticals, and should do so by introducing a national program to cover drug costs, says the author of a new CCPA study.
Dr. Joel Lexchin maintains that such a program--Pharmacare--is both urgently needed and affordable. He dismisses the excuse given by politicians that its costs would be prohibitive.
"There is compelling evidence," he says, "that a national drug plan would actually reduce overall costs, not increase them. Although it would cost the public treasury an additional $3.15 billion a year, overall drug costs to Canadians would be 10% lower--or $650 million less--than what is being spent now." This would happen because drug prices would inevitably drop (by about 15%) under a public plan, and so would administrative costs.
Dr. Lexchin's study contains detailed facts, figures and projections that support his call for a national drug plan.
"Under the present system, pharmaceutical costs have been rising steadily and now outstrip costs for physicians," he points out. "But more than 3 million Canadians, mainly the working poor, lack any drug insurance, despite medical need, and even seniors have to meet hefty out-of-pocket expenses in some provinces. The result is poorer health for millions of people, and increased costs in terms of physician visits and hospitalizations.
"If we ever hope to be able to provide pharmaceutical care for everyone without further straining the health care budget, a national Pharmacare program is essential."