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LETTER: The time for a National Pharmacare program is now

Canada is the only developed country with universal healthcare that doesn’t offer universal drug coverage. - 123RF Stock Photo
Canada is the only developed country with universal healthcare that doesn’t offer universal drug coverage. - 123RF Stock Photo

We all live in a very difficult and uncertain times with this global coronavirus pandemic.

With thousands of Canadians and Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans being temporarily or permanently unemployed, and almost a million Canadians filing for Employment Insurance benefits, it is not too hard to imagine that many unemployed people will be cut off from their previous private drug coverage, and having to worry about paying for their medically prescribed medications.

While we are blessed to have a universally accessible public medicare system, that provides most health-care coverage to people regardless of their socio-economic status or income levels, the same can’t be said about outpatient drug coverage.

That is why I believe that the long proposed National Pharmacare Program is long overdue and we need it now.

Since my letter to the editor, “Feds need to get on with pharmacare,” (The Telegram, Jan. 3) was published, I have received responses from various Canadian parliamentarians throughout Canada.

The most notable pro-pharmacare responses came from Jenica Atwin, Green Party MP for Fredericton, N.B.; Jon Gerrard, Manitoba Liberal MLA for River Heights; Susan Leblanc, NDP MLA for Dartmouth North, N.S.; and Wayne Long, Liberal MP for Saint John-Rothesay, N.B.

Here are their responses:

Jenica Atwin (Feb. 5): “ … The current pharmaceutical shortages and barriers to care are unacceptable. All Canadians deserve uncomplicated public access to required services — including Pharmacare... As we heard from Justin Trudeau’s throne speech, the Liberal government stated it ‘will take steps to introduce and implement national Pharmacare.’ … What has so far been unclear is when the work will begin and what a national pharmacare plan will look like.”

Dr. Jon Gerrard (Jan. 20): “Thank you Edward for your strong support for a national pharmacare plan. I and my colleagues in the provincial Liberal Party are with you on this one and we continue to advocate for Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberal government to move forward on this.”

Susan Leblanc (Jan. 30): “Dear Mr. Sawdon, Thank you for sharing with me your op-ed about pharmacare. It’s great and I agree it is time to actually get it done. In the most recent federal election I was inspired by Jagmeet Singh’s commitment to a fully universal pharmacare program and I really hope that Trudeau will work with Singh to make it happen ... a pharamare program that works for everyone can’t come soon enough."

Wayne Long (Jan. 28): “In August 2019, our government took the biggest step in the last 30 years towards lowering drug prices by enhancing the powers of the Patented Medicines Prices Review Board, Canada’s consumer protection agency for drugs. These major reforms will make prescription drugs more affordable and accessible for all Canadians and lay the foundation for National Pharmacare.”

•••

It is shocking to learn that one out of every five Canadians have no prescription drug coverage whatsoever. And, as a result to this global coronavirus pandemic, many Canadians will be joining both the unemployed and the uninsured.

Right now, there are Canadians who cannot afford the medications we need so in order to cope with our chronic health issues or our disabilities or to improve our quality of life or just to stay alive.

As I said back on Jan. 3 and I say it again. “Come on Justin, every Canadian health consumer from coast to coast to coast should be covered under a national drug program, period. It is time your government work with the Jagmeet Singh’s NDP and the Greens to finally make pharmacare a reality. We need it now, Mr. Trudeau!"

Edward Sawdon
St. John’s

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