The idea of national drug coverage, or pharmacare, has been getting a lot of attention across Canada lately. More and more people are calling for a national pharmacare strategy, including doctors, nurses, economists, as well as people in contract and service jobs who don’t have drug coverage. 

These calls reflect a growing problem that affects everyone in Canada: we are paying too much for prescription drugs.

In fact, our current patchwork system of private and public drug plans means that we are paying some of the highest drug prices in the world. Prescription medications cost on average 30% more in Canada than in other industrialized countries.

Drug costs are now the second biggest expense for the Canadian health care system, meaning that we spend more on drugs than we do on physician salaries. How did drug costs get so high? Canada has no coordinated bulk buying program for medications. Bulk buying is key to controlling drug costs for other countries. Without National Drug Coverage, we have no coordinated way to control drug costs.