Expert panel on pharmacare suggests harmonized national drug formulary

The advisory council on the implementation of national pharmacare has submitted its interim report to the federal government.

The report sets out three initial recommendations for the implementation of national pharmacare:

  • Creating a national drug agency to oversee national pharmacare;
  • Developing a comprehensive, evidence-based list of prescribed drugs — a national formulary — to harmonize coverage across Canada; and
  • Investing in data on prescription drugs and information technology systems.

Read: A primer on the parliamentary report on pharmacare and its impact on the benefits industry

The government said it will consider the council’s recommendations while it waits for the final report, which is due in the spring.

Since it was launched in June 2018, the council has engaged with Canadians from across the country, through stakeholder roundtables, targeted engagement sessions and community town halls with patients and caregivers, health-care providers, representatives of Indigenous organizations, government officials, industry, labour, employers and academics. It received more than 150 written submissions from organizations and individuals, and more than 15,000 responses to its online questionnaire.

“Canadians should not have to choose between paying for prescription drugs and putting food on the table,” said Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor, in a press release. “Our government is committed to exploring a national pharmacare plan that leaves no Canadian behind. I would like to thank the advisory council on the implementation of national pharmacare for its work to date and I look forward to receiving their final report.”

Read: Feds announce members of national pharmacare advisory council

In a press release acknowledging Wednesday’s announcement, Stephen Frank, the president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, said prescription drug reform requires a collaborative effort among insurers, provincial and territorial governments and the federal government.

“Improvements must ensure all Canadians can access affordable prescription medicines no matter where they live and work in Canada. A balanced solution will ensure the system is sustainable into the future and protects the health benefits plans that Canadians value.”

Frank also noted the CLHIA looks forward to engaging further with the advisory council in the coming months. “It’s important that governments work with private insurers to meet the objectives of ensuring access to affordable prescription medicines and long term sustainability of public and private benefits plans.”

Read: What are the implications of pharmacare reform for private drug plans?

Also in a press release, Innovative Medicines Canada noted it expects the proposed national formulary to mirror the highest standards of coverage among provinces and private payers. “It will also be important to learn more about how this policy proposal will impact Canadians who have comprehensive existing drug plans. This includes the 23 million Canadians with employer-sponsored drug plan coverage. No model of national pharmacare should result in a lower level of coverage for Canadians.”

IMC also said it looks forward to hearing more about the proposed national drug agency, which “has the potential to streamline Canada’s complex drug regulatory processes and should also shorten the time between when a new medicine is approved for use in Canada and when it is covered by a public drug plan.

“We support the report’s recommendation to invest in drug data and information technology systems. These investments have the potential to improve prescribing practices and further strengthen patients’ standard of care across Canada.”

Read: Pharmacare reform should guarantee viability of workplace benefits plans: CLHIA