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Six generic drugs to be commonly purchased, but we could do better

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The Council of the Federation's Health Innovation working group has just announced that six generic drugs have been chosen to be jointly purchased by provinces and territories. It has been estimated that this could save Canadians through their provincial drug insurance plans and out-of-pocket expenditures $100 million a year.

The premiers first announced that they were working on common generic purchasing of some drugs at the Council of the Federation meeting in July. We wrote about it here.

We applaud the premiers for coming together and finding a way to make generic drugs more affordable for Canadians. However, we want to see this go much further. Canada remains the only country with universal health care that does not include prescription drugs.

Canadians are also finding it harder to afford prescription drugs. One in 10 Canadians are longer filling their prescriptions because the cost is prohibitive.

While generic drugs are a fine place to start, the real cost drivers are big brand pharmaceutical drugs. If the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the EU is passed, big pharma could increase its drug prices by up to $2.8 billion a year! Any savings with the new common generic drug-purchasing plan would be overshadowed by this much bigger cost to Canadians.

What's the solution? Pharmacare. A universal pharmaceutical program that would cover the cost of prescription drugs for all Canadians. How much would it cost? Nada. In fact it would save us $10.7 billion a year. But it'll be a lot harder to bring into Canada if CETA passes.

So congratulations to the premiers on this arrangement. But let's get Harper back to the table and talk about the programs that will bring real savings and more importantly real justice to all Canadians. Six generic drugs is a start, but we could do much better.

Photo: e-MagineArt.com/Flickr

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