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Canadian Pharmacare Legislation Has Arrived

Earlier this month, the NDP and the Liberals announced a deal to introduce the first piece of a national pharmacare program providing federal funding for medications for Canadians. That legislation, the Pharmacare Act, was tabled on February 29, 2024 and can be found here.

For Now Limited Scope - Only Diabetes and Contraceptive

The legislation provides the Minister of Health with the power to make payments to a province or territory to increase any existing public pharmacare coverage for specific diabetes and contraceptive drugs if the Minister has entered into an agreement with that province or territory to do so. The coverage provided by the province or territory must, in turn, be “universal, single-payer, first-dollar coverage”. In other words, the legislation will not allow for any province or territory to receive this funding if that province or territory’s coverage plan involves any out-of-pockets costs to Canadians receiving the benefit.

Alberta Had Signaled a Desire to Opt Out

Earlier this week, Alberta’s health minister voiced the province’s preference for an option to opt out and receive a per-capita share of the plan’s funding instead. According to Alberta’s Health Minister, Adriana LaGrange, the province “ha[s] a very robust pharmacare program here in Alberta” and she had concerns about the anticipated limited scope of the bill.[1]

This Is Just the Beginning

Health Minister Mark Holland views this as “a proof-of concept opportunity to try (providing) two drugs on a universal, single-payer model” that will provide “an opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of that model” before expansion.[2]

And the Pharmacare Act has lofty goals. Within one year of the bill receiving royal assent, the Health Minister must:

  • Request that the Canadian Drug Agency prepare a list of essential prescription drugs and related products to inform the development of a national formulary that will establish the scope of prescription drugs and related products to which Canadians should have access under national universal pharmacare.
  • Request that the Canadian Drug Agency develop, in collaboration with partners and stakeholders, a national bulk purchasing strategy for prescription drugs and related products.
  • Publish on the website of the Department of Health a pan-Canadian strategy regarding the appropriate use of prescription drugs and related products.
  • Establish a committee of experts to make recommendations respecting options for the operation and financing of national, universal, single-payer pharmacare within 30 days of royal assent. That committee must provide a written report to the Minister setting out its recommendations within a year of royal assent.

We will continue to monitor for further updates. For further information on the Pharmacare Act or relates issues, please contact Davit Tait, Fiona Legere, Dorothy Charach or Bohdana Tkachuk.  






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