On Monday, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath laid out her plan for Ontario’s first Pharmacare program – a program to deliver lower cost, less stress and better health for all Ontarians.
“No one should have to rack up credit card bills to get the medicine they need,” said Horwath. “No one should end up in an already-overcrowded hospital because they couldn’t afford to take the medicine they were prescribed. That’s why I’m committed to creating Ontario’s first universal Pharmacare program.”
When launched, the program will include the most common and essential prescription medicines – such as common medication for high blood pressure, asthma, and diabetes. That list, set by independent experts and based on data, will include about 125 drugs on the program’s launch, and grow over time.
Horwath was joined by Dr. Steve Morgan, one of Canada’s leading researchers on Pharmacare. “A program of this kind is a practical way of significantly improving access to medicines while dramatically lowering overall drug costs,” said Morgan. “Universal public coverage of essential medicines is a significant and feasible step in the right direction.”
Existing programs for seniors’ drugs and high-cost drugs will remain, while the cost of a prescription under Pharmacare will be no more than the copayment through the Ontario Drug Benefit. Businesses that offer prescription drug benefits to their staff will save as much as an estimated $1.9 billion.
The program is expected to help millions save money and have better access to preventative care and treatment. Today, one in four Ontarians doesn’t take their medication as prescribed because of cost, and 2.2 million Ontarians have no prescription drug coverage at all. With a growing number of workers in unstable and non-traditional jobs in Ontario, the number of people not covered is expected to grow.
"Access to prescription drugs is a central part of maintaining health and fighting disease,” said Dr. Danyaal Raza, a family physician in Toronto and assistant professor at the University of Toronto. “The health of too many Ontarians has suffered when they've been forced to choose between paying for these medications, instead of housing or food. We're long overdue to change that.”
“When I think of the number of Ontarians who walk out of their doctor’s office knowing that they can’t afford to go to the pharmacy and fill the prescription – I know it’s time to do something about it,” said Horwath.
“We can help people live healthier, less stressful lives. We can make their month a little more affordable. And by preventing emergency room trips, we can also relieve the strain on our overcrowded hospitals. This plan is realistic and affordable – and when I think of the millions of Ontarians who don’t take their medicine because of the cost, I think we can’t afford not to do this.”
The NDP and Pharmacare experts estimate the cost to be under $475 million – less than 0.35 per cent of the province’s total annual budget.