Did you know?

  • Canada is the only developed country in the world which provides universal healthcare but does not cover the cost of prescribed medications.
  • Two-thirds of Canadian households have out-of-pocket expenses for prescription drugs.
  • Approximately one half of all Canadians have no coverage for prescription medication. This includes one third of Canadians employed full time, and three quarters of part time workers.
  • One in four Canadians without insurance coverage has difficulty paying for medications.
  • One in ten Canadians with insurance have difficulty paying for medications.

Update: 

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Health has tabled a report recommending the establishment of a single payer, publicly funded prescription drug coverage program for all Canadians. But our fight is not over! This is not set is stone. We have to speak up to ensure that all Canadians have access to the drugs they need. Please continue to share your stories with your government representatives.

Read more about the issue

“The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.” – the World Health Organization (WHO) Constitution, 1946

Like many chronic diseases, asthma cannot be cured. However, asthma can be managed by using appropriate medications. The use of prescribed medications reduces exacerbations, prevents hospital admissions and deaths. It allows people to work, attend school and live productive, symptom-free lives. Prescription drugs can manage conditions, cure disease, improve quality of life, shorten or prevent time spent in hospitals, and reduce demand for healthcare services. This can lead to positive health outcomes for individuals and decreased costs for the healthcare system.[i] Yet,

  • Two-thirds of Canadian households have out-of-pocket expenses for prescription drugs[ii]
  • Approximately one half of all Canadians have no coverage for prescription medication. This includes one third of Canadians employed full time, and three quarters of part time workers.[iii]
  • One in four Canadians without insurance coverage has difficulty paying for medications.
  • One in ten Canadians with insurance have difficulty paying for medications.[iv]

All high income countries that provide universal healthcare to their citizens, also provide universal coverage of prescription drugs. Currently, Canada is the only OECD country which has a national healthcare plan that does not include a national drug program for prescription medication[v].  Every year, Canadian prescription drug costs increase faster than that of all other OECD countries[vi][vii]. With the ever escalating cost of prescription medicines, more and more Canadians are faced with having to choose between taking their medications and paying for other essentials. The economic burden of having to pay for prescriptions out-of-pocket is unsustainable and unfairly targets those who may already be struggling.

The asthma community is particularly at risk.

  • Many insurance carriers do not provide complete coverage to asthma patients. In a study conducted by Asthma Canada, most respondents (74.4%) had been denied coverage for recommended treatment options by insurance programs.[viii]
  • In the same study, it was found that many respondents (33.7%) had, at some point, skipped filling a prescribed medication because they could not afford it. [ix]
  • 1% of respondents indicated they missed a dosage because they could not afford it.[x]
  • Due to recent scientific breakthroughs, biologics are now available to treat Canadians affected by Severe Asthma. The annual cost of these new treatments can be in the tens of thousands of dollars. This is a significant barrier to access.[xi]

It is unacceptable that residents of a country with universal healthcare skip filling prescribed medication due to inability to pay. Far too many Canadians fall through the cracks in the current healthcare system. These gaps must be eliminated. The asthma community is not alone in struggling to due to the current inadequacies of the Canadian healthcare system. “A 2012 study estimated that inequities in drug coverage for working-age Ontarians with diabetes were associated with 5,000 deaths between 2002 and 2008. Nationally, this human toll would be far greater.” [xii]  Universal coverage of prescription medication will save lives. It will lead to better health outcomes for all Canadians across the board.

We believe that all Canadians living with asthma should have equitable and timely access to prescription medications based on the best possible health outcomes rather than ability to pay.

Millions of Canadians throughout the country are making the case for universal pharmacare. It is time the asthma community raises its voice to join the national demand for equitable access to prescription drugs. The asthma community is calling on the Government of Canada to eliminate all gaps in drug coverage and ensure a wide range of treatment options are available based on best health outcomes. This will ensure that every Canadian has access to the medicines they need to lead the best quality of life possible.


View References
[i] Stuart B, Doshi JA, and Terza, JV. (2009). “Assessing the Impact of Drug Use on Hospital Costs” Health Services Research, 44(1):128-144.

[ii] Health Council of Canada. (December 2011). “Fact Sheet: How Do Sicker Canadians with Chronic Disease Rate the Health Care System?” http:www.heathcouncilcanada.ca/rpt_det.php?id=312

[iii] Wellesley Institute. (2015). “Access to prescription drugs”. http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/PrescriptionDrugsHEIA-UPDATE

[iv] Ibid.,

[v] CMA Submission: National Pharmacare in Canada: Getting There from Here, Submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, Canadian Medical Association (CMA), June 1 2016, pg.3.

[vi] “Pharmacare in Canada.” Pharmacare | Pharmacare | Issues. Canadian Doctors for Medicare, August 8 201, http://www.canadiandoctorsformedicare.ca/Pharmacare/pharmacare.html?Itemid=172

[vii] Morgan, S. G., J. R. Daw, and M. R. Law. 2014. Are Income-Based Public Drug Benefit Programs Fit for an Aging Population? IRPP Study 50. Montreal: Institute for Research on Public Policy

[viii] Severe Asthma – The Canadian Patient Journey: A study of the personal, social, medical and economic burden of Severe Asthma in Canada, Asthma Society of Canada, 2014, pg.9

[x] Executive Summary: Severe Asthma – The Canadian Patient Journey: A study of the personal, social, medical and economic burden of Severe Asthma in Canada, Asthma Society of Canada, 2014, pg.3

[xi] Ibid.,

[xii]  “Why a universal pharmacare plan makes sense — now” | The Toronto Star | https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2017/05/02/why-a-universal-pharmacare-plan-makes-sense-now.html