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Results: 1 - 15 of 366
View Gagan Sikand Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, historically our Liberal government did implement universal health care, with input through provincial NDP, and it is one of the cornerstones of our country. However, I would be remiss if I did not ask this question on behalf of my riding.
I represent a high concentration of pharmaceutical companies, colloquially known as Pill Hill, and they want us to strike a balance as we move forward. Their concern is that if we move too quickly, we are going to end up with a subpar health care system, because we are going to stymie innovation.
My position is, of course, that we want full pharmacare, but we want to strike that balance. I would like to know if my colleague could speak to that.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-03-12 12:13 [p.1995]
Madam Speaker, I want to clarify something. My colleague who introduced the motion was very specific and said that we absolutely do recognize that Quebec has its own system. If it is Quebec's will that it continue on with its own system of pharmacare, then that is its choice. We wanted to provide as much choice as possible to the people of Quebec.
In fact, even though Quebec is ahead of the curve with its public and private system, Quebeckers are among those who spend the most per capita on prescription drugs and 10% of them cannot afford the drugs they need.
Even though Quebec has this ahead-of-the-curve system, would it not be something that the Bloc Québécois could consider in terms of improving things for the people of Quebec, that they listen to what the NDP has to say, explore the national version and see if that actually helps Quebeckers in their province?
View Gagan Sikand Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, earlier today I was speaking on behalf of my riding. As I mentioned, I have an area colloquially known as Pill Hill. That area was established in 1995 after the referendum. Many companies from Quebec came to our riding.
Since then, they re-established counterparts, probably even a larger footprint back in Quebec. From what I have heard from my riding, they want to strike a balance as we go forward. I was just wondering if my hon. colleague could speak to the counterparts in Quebec, the business case and perhaps what they want going forward.
View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent to propose the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes): The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Ruby Sahota Profile
2020-03-12 15:14 [p.2025]
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle.
I am honoured to take part in today's opposition motion debate on pharmacare. Ensuring that Canadians have timely access to therapeutic products, including prescription drugs and medical devices, is a clear priority for our government. A strong regulatory system capable of efficiently assessing and monitoring therapeutic products as they move from concept to market is necessary in order for Canadians to have timely access to the products that they need.
I would like to speak to colleagues about the progress being made in Canada to further improve our government's approach to the regulation of these important therapeutic products.
Health Canada has been working towards a more agile regulatory system that better responds to health care system needs. This commitment to improve access to necessary prescription medications and medical devices was supported through funds allocated in budget 2017.
Health Canada has undertaken a number of initiatives to better serve the needs of Canadian patients in this area, including aligning regulatory processes with health care partners and international regulatory authorities, building capacity to be able to respond to changes in technology, using real-world data to bring more drugs and devices to Canadians and appropriately manage risks once products are on the market, modernizing the emergency provisions in the food and drug regulations to arrive at a less burdensome process for drugs accessed through the special access program and facilitating access to unauthorized drugs to address public and military health emergencies through an appropriate regulatory mechanism.
Health Canada is achieving this while maintaining its world-class and highly respected review of the safety, efficiency and quality of therapeutic products.
Within Canada, our government is working with health partners across the drug and medical device access spectrum to ensure earlier access to needed therapeutic products. We are reducing the time between initial approval and the reimbursement recommendation that is a key factor for a product to be made available. Portions of these reviews are now being completed in parallel, streamlining the multiple steps needed to get products to Canadians.
Health Canada is also facilitating access by expanding critical priority review pathways to ensure that the therapeutic products that are needed most by the health care system are reviewed more quickly.
Given the globalization of therapeutic product development, Canada cannot work in isolation. Health Canada has therefore committed to leveraging the knowledge gained from international counterparts, such as Australia, Europe and the United States, and is actively participating in international work sharing and collaborative drug reviews.
This international collaboration is strengthening relationships with foreign regulatory partners, improving alignment in regulatory processes and improving the efficiency and expediency of reviews. It is also maximizing the use of international scientific and regulatory expertise when reviewing drugs for safety, efficiency and quality. The change will also encourage the filing of submissions for approval of some products that would not otherwise be available in Canada.
Health Canada has also increased its capacity to review submissions for generic and biosimilar drugs so that these important and often more cost-effective therapeutic alternatives are made available to Canadians in a timely manner.
The special access program, or SAP, is an important mechanism for providing Canadians with access to drugs that are not yet marketed in Canada but are needed to treat serious or life-threatening diseases. Health Canada has published proposed regulatory changes to reduce the program's administrative burden and to make it more responsive to the needs of patients and physicians.
Regarding medical devices, Health Canada has developed a targeted review process for digital health technologies. It provides capacity to review these emerging innovative technologies in a more rapid manner. With this greater availability, these technologies will create potential cost savings in the health care system by shifting care from health care institutions to the home.
Finally, under the umbrella of access, Health Canada has finalized regulations supporting the public release of clinical data from therapeutic product submissions following a regulatory decision. Making this information available enables independent analysis by researchers and can offer new insights and perspectives that can benefit patient care.
Building on the work Health Canada is doing to support access to therapeutic products in Canada, the department has recently launched a new modernization plan focused on reducing barriers to innovation.
In response to the government's targeted reviews of the health and biosciences sector in 2018, Health Canada is advancing important work to make its regulations for therapeutic products more agile without compromising patient safety. This includes modernizing clinical trial regulations so that Canadians can access more treatment options through new and innovative clinical trial designs. Health Canada is also looking at its core market approval processes to make sure that they are flexible enough to accommodate continuous change in the sector.
Taken together, these initiatives play a key role in supporting greater access to innovative treatments needed by the health care system for all Canadians. The national pharmacare strategy will continue to build on the foundation set by Health Canada's regulatory modernization efforts.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-03-12 15:35 [p.2027]
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski.
In the days before medicare, we saw our neighbours suffer because they could not afford the health care they needed. We saw people lose their homes, their farms and their businesses as they struggled to pay their medical bills. We saw illness destroy entire families. Today, decades later, as we look across the country we see the pain of inaccessible and unaffordable health care once again.
Millions of families cannot afford to take the medications they need because they have no employer-provided drug coverage. The number of uninsured people forced to skip their medications is growing as more people work on contract, are self-employed or have jobs that just do not come with health benefits. Too many seniors are putting their health at risk because they do not have job coverage and cannot afford to pay out of pocket. One in five Canadians either has no prescription drug coverage at all or has inadequate coverage for medication needs. That is 7.5 million people.
I met one gentleman in my riding of London—Fanshawe who really highlighted this issue for me. He was injured on the job. Thankfully his employer had health benefits that would cover some of his recovery. He wanted and needed to get back to work even though he was not well enough, because he knew that he was up against the clock and his employer's health benefits would soon run out. He would have to make the impossible choice of going back to work, further risking his health and the health and safety of others, or paying out of pocket with money he just did not have, throwing himself into deeper poverty.
Sadly, this story is not anything new. That is why on clinical, ethical and economic grounds universal public drug coverage has been recommended by commissions, committees and advisory councils dating as far back as the 1940s. Health policy experts are clear: A U.S.-style, private patchwork approach will cost more and deliver inferior access to prescription drugs.
It is why New Democrats have always understood that health care must be a right in Canada, not a privilege. We have been calling for universal public drug coverage since our founding convention in 1961.
Today, Canada is the only wealthy country in the world with a universal health care system that lacks universal prescription insurance coverage. We pay the third-highest prices for drugs in the world and have to deal with a patchwork of programs and coverage, if we are lucky enough to have coverage at all.
For 10 years, instead of addressing the growing costs of drug coverage, the Conservatives made the problem worse by reducing health care funding to the provinces and undermining efforts towards a national approach to pharmaceutical pricing. Now, the Liberal government has spent four years stalling, promising lower drug costs but delivering delays and more of the same piecemeal system that is failing Canadians and costing us more.
We see the direct cost of this inaction in our hospitals and our communities. With people unable to get the medicine they need, they turn to our emergency rooms. When patients cannot afford their prescription drugs, they access provincial and territorial health systems more often as their conditions deteriorate. In 2016, about 303,000 Canadians had additional doctor visits, about 93,000 sought care in the emergency department and 26,000 were admitted to hospital after being forced to forgo prescription medication due to cost.
HealthCareCAN, the national voice of health care organizations and hospitals across Canada, estimates that between 5.4% and 6.5% of hospital admissions in Canada are the result of cost-related non-adherence to prescription medication, resulting in costs of approximately $1.6 billion per year.
One in five Canadian households reports a family member who, in the past year, has not taken a prescription medication due to its cost. Nearly three million Canadians per year are unable to afford one or more of their prescription drugs. With a system that still struggles with mental health supports, we see people on the streets and in our correctional systems when what they really need is help.
In London, Victoria Hospital of the London Health Sciences Centre has a significant overcapacity problem, with more mental health patients than beds for 179 of the last 181 days. The hospital's average capacity on any given night was around 111%.
We see the desperate need for a national, single-payer, universal pharmacare program. I believe my colleagues across the way believe that we need one too. I am so glad to hear that they will be supporting our motion today.
Why would Liberals keep promising to bring forward a national pharmacare program for the last 23 years? Why would Liberals propose study after study, after commission, after advisory committee if they did not see a need for pharmacare? That is, unless they are constantly studying the program to make it look like they are considering the issue and have no intention of implementing it. This is my great fear.
Liberals have been promising pharmacare since 1997, but I wonder how long they have been making promises to big pharmaceutical and insurance companies to secure their skyrocketing profits. We know that drug costs have increased every year the Liberals have been in power since 2015, and in that same time the Liberals have met with companies from the pharmaceutical and insurance industries more than 875 times.
New Democrats have a clear plan on how to implement pharmacare. In fact, our plan is laid out by the Liberals' own Hoskins report. We are so committed to ensuring this happens that, immediately following the last election, the NDP began working to draft a framework to make a universal, comprehensive and public pharmacare program a reality. It was the first private member's bill that my colleague, the member for New Westminster—Burnaby, put forward and I thank him so much for his hard work. I thank my colleague, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, for the hard work he has done on this file, not only in putting forward this motion today but for his work on the health committee in the last Parliament.
The NDP's national pharmacare act is modelled after the Canada Health Act, again as recommended in the report of former Ontario Liberal health minister Hoskins. After all the studies and commissions, if we read the report, it lays out a very clear path on how to implement pharmacare. A plan should follow the same principles that are the bedrock of our public health care system: universality, comprehensiveness, accessibility, portability and public administration.
What also comes out of the endless reports and studies is that, beyond the positive impacts on health and fighting poverty, pharmacare will save Canadians and businesses money. Universal, comprehensive and public pharmacare will reduce annual system-wide spending on prescription drugs by $5 billion through the negotiation of lower drug prices, increased generic substitution and use of biosimilars and other shifts in prescribing toward lower-cost therapies. It will stimulate our economy by reducing prescription drug costs for businesses and employees by $16.6 billion annually and reduce out-of-pocket costs for families by $6.4 billion, according to that same Hoskins report.
When we consider the average median household income in London—Fanshawe is under $60,000 a year, and $30,000 per individual per year, it is well below the Canadian and Ontario average and this would be a huge boost to people in my riding. I think of the many seniors in London—Fanshawe that I have talked to, either on their doorsteps or in my constituency office. They tell me about how the cost of everyday items continues to increase while their incomes remain the same. The cost of drugs continues to be the fastest-growing expense for people and for families. Average drug costs are increasing by 4% every year. On average, Canadian households spend $450 a year on prescription drugs and $550 on private health plan premiums, which is a combined average of $1,000. Private premiums have risen rapidly in recent years, thanks largely to escalating drug prices, and are taking a growing bite out of workers' take-home pay.
After decades of delay, we have a historic opportunity in this minority Parliament to finally deliver for Canadians. We can come together and deliver, lifting people up in a real way and at the same time creating a healthier Canada. It is time for this Parliament to have the courage to put forward this program, to strengthen our health care system, strengthen our economy and strengthen our communities.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-03-12 15:45 [p.2029]
Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if the member was trying to shift the responsibility from the majority Liberal governments over all of those years. They certainly had every opportunity. Even in the last session when it had a majority, it was at a snail's pace. Liberals keep saying there was all of this advancement, but I know that people in my riding, having to decide between food on their tables or the medications they need to survive, are not really appreciative of the fact that it has taken those 23 years to move this forward.
I am happy that the government has decided to support this motion. I hope Liberals continue to support the bill going forward so we can get the supports people need in London—Fanshawe and across the country.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-03-12 15:47 [p.2029]
Mr. Speaker, I have heard my colleague bring this issue up in the House today. I appreciate that he is advocating so fiercely for some of his constituents, which is wonderful to see.
As other members in the House have mentioned, bringing in a universal pharmacare program does not mean we are giving up on continuing to advance the need for specific medications for people with rare diseases. We can lift everybody up and work toward equal access, which we have to do together. However, this is not about throwing one system out and replacing it with another.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-03-12 15:48 [p.2030]
Mr. Speaker, the member across the way has talked a lot about the importance of the Quebec system. The New Democrats are in full support. If Quebeckers want to negotiate higher transfer payments under the pharmacare program, they can do so. They have led the pack with respect to the provision of pharmacare.
It is important to look at our nation as a whole, look at the pharmacare program as a whole and look at what the bulk buying of those drugs can provide, not just to Quebeckers, or to Ontarians or to the people in Saskatchewan and so on, but to all Canadians. That is a really important part of the program.
View Han Dong Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Han Dong Profile
2020-03-12 18:20 [p.2053]
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to add a voice to today's debate. It is a very important issue. I heard the member from the NDP party mention that he has never been in the legislature. I actually was an MPP for the Ontario legislature and I remember going to hospitals and talking to businesses on their views of Ontario's pharmacare. We had a plan. Unfortunately, the current provincial government decided to cancel it. It is just a shameful, shameful move.
I heard loud and clear from the parents of a child who was diagnosed with cancer and the drug payment every month was in the five digits. As MPs, we are making a decent amount of money, but even then, I would have been broke.
How can we expect an Ontario family or other Canadians to afford this kind of drug? I think national pharmacare is the way to go. I have no problem supporting today's motion.
View Sonia Sidhu Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Sonia Sidhu Profile
2020-03-12 18:22 [p.2053]
Madam Speaker, as a member of the Standing Committee on Health, we conducted a study on pharmacare in the last Parliament. With 18 years of experience in the health care field, I know how important national pharmacare is and how beneficial it would be for Canadians and Bramptonians.
I am pleased to participate today in this important discussion on prescription drugs for Canadians. As part of budget 2018, we created the advisory council on the implementation of national pharmacare to provide independent advice to the government on how best to implement national pharmacare in a manner that would be affordable for Canadians and their families, employers and government.
Budget 2019 announced the next critical steps toward the implementation of national pharmacare. These include working with the provinces, territories and stakeholders on the creation of a Canadian drug agency, taking steps toward the development of a national formulary and creating a national strategy for high-cost drugs for rare diseases. It is important we continue with our measured and considered approach to implementation. We know that a national pharmacare program would bring cost savings to the health system.
In the meantime, the government has been working with partners on initial steps to make Canada's existing prescription drug system more efficient and responsive. This work will help with the successful implementation of a national pharmacare program.
In budget 2017, the government provided support for this commitment with an investment of $140 million over five years followed by $18.2 million each year on an ongoing basis for Health Canada, the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board and the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health to improve access to prescription medications, lower drug prices and support appropriate prescribing.
Drug spending in Canada is high. It has increased significantly and needs to be addressed. Drugs are now the second-largest category of spending in health care. The Canadian Institute for Health Information estimates drug spending reached over $40 billion in 2019.
Part of that spending results from an increase in the utilization of drugs resulting from the effects of both an aging population and a rise of chronic conditions. However, it is also a result of high drug prices.
Canadian prices for drugs are very high by international standards. According to the PMPRB, Canada's price regulator for patented drugs, our patented drugs prices are behind only the U.S. and Switzerland and well above the average for countries of the OECD. Indeed, OECD median prices are on average almost 20% below those in Canada.
Although the situation with respect to generic drug prices has improved in recent years, there is still room for improvement. As the PMPRB reported last year, in 2018 Canada ranked as having the 11th highest generic drug prices, just behind the United States, and, on average, OECD median generic drug prices were 15% lower than in Canada.
The government has taken action to address these challenges through targeted measures to lower drug prices and improve the affordability of prescription drugs to better protect Canadian consumers from excessive prices. The government has modernized the way prices for patented drugs are regulated.
The PMPRB was created in 1987 as a consumer protection pillar after a major set of reforms to the Patent Act. The PMPRB's mandate is to ensure that patent holders do not abuse their patent rights by charging consumers excessive prices.
Last August, the government updated the patented medicines regulations, which, together with the Patent Act, provided the PMPRB with the tools and information it needed to monitor and regulate patented drug prices in today's pharmaceutical environment. These are the most significant reforms to the regulations since their introduction in 1987.
The amendments, which come into force this July, are expected to save roughly $13 billion in the first 10 years of implementation.
Several changes were made to patented medicine regulations. The first updated the list of comparator countries. The PMPRB currently benchmarks the list prices of the patented drugs sold in Canada against the list prices in seven other countries. As the current countries used for these comparisons have some of the highest prices in the world, the benchmark fails to protect Canadians from excessive drug prices. The new regulation changes the countries that the PMPRB compares Canadian prices against. With the revision, the list of comparator countries includes a complement more like Canada economically and with similar price protections, such as Australia and the United Kingdom.
In addition to changing the list of comparator countries, there were other changes to the regulations, which help the PMPRB regulate the price for patented drugs. It is known, for example, that not all drug discoveries are alike. Some drugs represent breakthroughs that extend the lives of Canadians, while others offer a slight or no improvement over products already on the market.
While many factors go into determining a non-excessive drug price, value for money should be one of them. There must be evidence that a drug is likely to prolong life or improve the quality of life to justify a higher price tag. The amendments included new price regulatory factors, which will enable the PMPRB to ensure that the prices manufacturers charge Canadians reflects the value the drugs bring to the health care system.
Finally, the amendments also supported greater transparency in drug prices. When the PMPRB was created, prices paid in the market were similar to public list prices. Now, as a result of significant discounts and rebates to third party payers, the prices paid in the market are significantly lower than list prices. These rebates are typically negotiated in confidence, with the agreement that they will not be disclosed publicly. The amendments enable the PMPRB to see the actual prices being paid in Canada and not just the list prices published by the industry. Without this information, the PMPRB would be left to regulate prices on the basis of inflated prices that do not reflect the actual prices being paid in the market.
Through consultation on the changes to the regulations, Health Canada heard from a number of stakeholders including, among others, provinces and territories, industry, patient organizations and health policy experts. Changes reflected the feedback received as part of the consultation process. This suite of measures laid the groundwork for national pharmacare, and is the foundation of a system that would enable Canadians to access and afford the drugs they need.
The government is also working closely with the provinces and territories to reduce drug costs. As a member of the pan-Canadian pharmaceutical alliance, we are combining our collective buying power to make prescription drugs more affordable for public drug plans, while lowering generic drug prices for all payers. The initiative has been extraordinarily successful. The pCPA has completed 345 negotiations with the makers of patented drugs and has an additional 34 currently under way.
In 2018, the alliance also conducted negotiations on a five-year agreement with the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association, providing significant savings for all Canadians who use generic prescription drugs. Through this initiative, the prices of nearly 70 of the most commonly prescribed generic drugs in Canada were reduced by 90% of the price of their brand-name equivalents. As of April 2019, the work of the pCPA had resulted in annual savings of more than $2 billion through negotiated price reduction for both patented and generic drugs.
Taken together, these two measures will have a significant impact on the affordability of drugs and represent the kind of improvement that must be made to ensure the success of national pharmacare. Last June, we welcomed the recommendation from the advisory council on the implementation of national pharmacare. These recommendations are—
View Peter Fragiskatos Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Peter Fragiskatos Profile
2020-03-12 18:33 [p.2055]
Madam Speaker, I know my hon. colleague has a passion for working with advocates on diabetes and being a strong voice in the country on diabetes research. How will pharmacare help those living with diabetes?
View Sonia Sidhu Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Sonia Sidhu Profile
2020-03-12 18:33 [p.2055]
Madam Speaker, the hon. member has a passion for the health care field as well.
As members know, our government's top priority is the health and safety of Canadians. We recognize the serious impact. When I was working on the health committee, we conducted a study. We heard loudly that more than 20% of Canadians could not get their medications. Without getting medications, they have serious consequences.
That is why, guided by the initial recommendation in the council's interim report, budget 2019 announced federal investments to move forward on three fundamental elements of national pharmacare, including creating a national drug agency. Also, budget 2019 announced critical steps toward implementing a national universal pharmacare.
View Sonia Sidhu Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Sonia Sidhu Profile
2020-03-12 18:35 [p.2055]
Madam Speaker, as I said, guided by the initial recommendations in the council's interim report, budget 2019's first step was to create a Canada drug agency to take a coordinated approach toward assessing the effectiveness of negotiating drug prices. Part of the work of the agency is the development of a national formulary, promoting more consistent coverage across the country and creating a national strategy for the high cost of drugs for rare diseases to help Canadians get better access to the effective treatments they need.
That is why budget 2019 proposed to provide Health Canada with $35 million over four years, starting in 2019-20, to establish a transition office to support the creating of a Canada drug agency and a national formulary, so everyone could benefit from it. This is the initial step toward national pharmacare.
View Sonia Sidhu Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Sonia Sidhu Profile
2020-03-12 18:36 [p.2055]
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the great passion from the hon. member. As he knows, in the health committee, I was a great advocate for national pharmacare. We conducted a study. As a health care professional for 18 years, I heard loudly what national pharmacare meant and how people needed it. That is why our government is taking important steps.
In 2016, we conducted a study on health care and other rare diseases. I talked to patients about rare diseases. It is a most important issue as a health care professional.
In 2018, the alliance concluded negotiations for a five-year agreement with the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association, providing significant savings for all Canadians. That is why I commend our government for taking steps for universal pharmacare, which never happened before.
I know we need to do a lot more to better protect Canadians.
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