A special panel convened to make recommendations on the future of prescription drug coverage in Canada is calling on the federal government to create a universal public insurance plan for necessary medicines.

The Citizens’ Reference Panel on Pharmacare, which is made up of 35 people from every province and territory randomly selected in a “civic lottery,” traveled to Ottawa for five days to learn about Canada’s health-care system and how prescription drugs are provided her and in other countries. They heard from guest speakers, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, brand-name and generic manufacturers, insurers, retailers, patients, public agencies, academics and former policymakers.

“The panelists were surprised to learn that many Canadians do not have adequate drug coverage and that Canadians on average spend considerably more for medically necessary drugs than most other countries with comparable health-care systems,” said Peter MacLeod, the panel’s chair, in a news release. “They believe the government should act and create a national pharmacare system that is equitable and cost-effective.”

Read: Study finds Canadian health-care system expensive but inefficient

In its report to the federal government, the panel is recommending immediate action to address flaws in the current patchwork of public and private drug coverage, including listing medicines on a new national formulary that would be extensive enough to accommodate the full range of individual patient needs.

It is also recommending that all covered drugs would undergo a rigorous evaluation process to ensure both the efficacy and value for money of funded treatments.

As a first step, the panel is asking the government to move immediately to implement public coverage for a short list of basic, frequently prescribed drugs, a list it believes would begin the shift towards a comprehensive universal pharmacare system and become the basis for the new national formulary.

Read: Study warns against adopting New Zealand-style pharmacare

The panel is also endorsing an ongoing role for private insurers in providing supplemental coverage. For instance, under any new system, employers, unions and individuals could continue to purchase private insurance for medications not on the public formulary as well as other paramedical services.

In terms of funding the new program, the panel suggests the government implement modest income and corporate tax increases, and also urges further consideration of co-payment models provided they don’t create an unreasonable barrier for low-income individuals.

“This is a timely and important contribution to a national dialogue on strengthening pharmaceutical coverage,” says Dr. Steve Morgan, professor of health policy at the University of British Columbia, and the panel’s lead researcher.

Read: Canadians divided on benefits of a universal drug program: report

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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