Policy Priority: Choice and Access to Medications


Asthma Canada believes 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. Asthma Canada supports the Government’s commitment to reduce costs and improve access to necessary prescription medications. We continue to advocate for the needs of the Canadian asthma community, calling for lower drug costs through national pharmacare while working to protect patient access to innovative medicines in our country.

We also continue to raise awareness about the importance of choice and innovative medicines for the asthma community. We provide input to the federal government through Patient Evidence Submissions on new treatment options and through submission to the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB).

Read more about about our work advancing this key policy priority and national pharmacare advocacy objective.

Access to Medication Letter Writing Campaign

Canada is the only developed country in the world which provides universal healthcare but does not cover the cost of prescribed medications. 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 Canadians joined Asthma Canada’s efforts to demand universal coverage of prescription medications by sending letters to their government representatives explaining how a lack of access to prescription medication impacts them and their loved ones.

We applaud the Federal government’s support for the establishment of the Canadian Drug Agency which will oversee the development of a new national formulary of prescribed drugs and provide additional support for Canadians with rare diseases. We look forward to integrating the perspectives of patients and the health charity sector as we work with the Federal Government to implement these investments.

We would like to thank the asthma community for helping put pharmacare on the map as a political priority. Thank you for sharing your stories and experiences; for writing to your elected representatives through our letter-writing campaign; and for joining Asthma Canada as we went to Parliament Hill and met with countless policy makers to reinforce our demand for equitable access to medication.

As we move ahead, it will be essential to ensure that we, the asthma community and the patient community at large, continue this momentum and continue to speak out and make ourselves heard.

We must ensure that pharmacare becomes a commitment across party lines and remains a key political priority regardless of election outcomes. We invite you to join us as we continue our efforts to ensure that all Canadians have equitable access to prescription medication and that patient choice is included in all pharmacare solutions.

Further reading:

On Parliament Hill: World Asthma Day

On May 2, 2017, Asthma Canada volunteers and staff were in Ottawa meeting with federal officials in recognition of World Asthma Day. Our group met with numerous Members of Parliament and policy makers, including the Chair of the Health Committee, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources, and the Vice-Chair for the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

Our Hill Day focused on two priority areas:

  1. Sustainable clean air energy mix
  2. Comprehensive drug coverage that addresses gaps in the healthcare system

Read more about World Asthma Day in Ottawa here.

At Queen's Park: World Asthma Day

On May 7, 2019, Asthma Canada hosted a breakfast reception at the Ontario Legislative Assembly at Queen’s Park in recognition of World Asthma Day. MPP Christine Hogarth sponsored the event.

We hosted a number of MPPs and policy makers and had the opportunity to raise awareness among elected officials from all parties about the impact of asthma on our patient population, our health system, and our economy. Our community members shared first-hand experiences of living with asthma and caring for people with asthma and Severe Asthma.

On World Asthma Day at Queen’s Park, Asthma Canada launched our Severe Asthma Patient Charter in Canada containing six principles that define the basic standard of care and best practices for treating this disease. The Charter was developed in collaboration with the Global Asthma and Allergy Patient Platform.

Read more about World Asthma Day at Queen’s Park.

OHIP+ and Coverage for AeroChambers

Asthma Canada met with Minister of Health staff in February to discuss the positive impact and challenges associated with OHIP + and the new Ontario Lung Act.

Asthma Canada sought broader coverage for valved-holding chambers and the use of a short Exceptional Access Program (EAP) form for Singulair. Initially, Asthma Canada helped get valved-holding chambers covered under the OHIP program, though it was only covered for those aged 12 and under. Asthma Canada continues to advocate for expanded coverage for valved-holding chambers to include those 13 -24, as well as a reduction in the amount of administration doctors must do when assisting their patients with drugs covered under the Exceptional Access Program.

As Ontario often sets precedent on policy issues, for adaptation/adoption in other provinces – both OHIP+ and the Ontario Lung Act are positive steps forward for the wider Canadian asthma community.

Learn more about OHIP+ here.

National Pharmacare + Hoskin's Report

Asthma Canada is a member of Health Charities Coalition of Canada (HCCC).

As members of HCCC, Asthma Canada upholds the guiding principles for pharmacare:

  • To imporove health outcomes for all people in Canada, patient-centred principles should guide the development, implementation and delivery of a national pharmacare program.
  • All people in Canada should have equitable and consistent access to necessary prescription medicines.
  • All people in Canada should be able to access the medicines they need in a timely manner.
  • All people in Canada should have access to high-quality medicines that are appropriate to their individual needs. All people in Canada should be able to afford their medicines at the point of care.
  • All people in Canada should benefit from a pharmacare system that ensures ongoing health system sustainability.
  • National pharmacare program design and implementation should be developed and monitored in partnership with patients to ensure the right medicine gets to the right patient at the right time in a cost-effective manner.
Patient Choice and Treatment Options

In partnership with COPD Canada, Asthma Canada developed a white paper on the importance of patient choice, specifically with regards to inhaled medications for those with lung conditions.

Key highlights of the white paper are listed below. Read the full report, The importance of patient choice in inhaled medication decision making

  • Inhaled medications are the cornerstone of therapy for both asthma and COPD. Therapeutic guidelines help in the selection of safe and effective drugs; the selection of the device must also be patient-centered.
  • There is abundant evidence that optimized patient outcomes, minimized exacerbations and maximized adherence are obtained only with careful patient-device alignment; this entails consideration of patient device preferences, physical constraints on device use, and regular inhaler technique education.
  • Medication and device choices/switches should only be conducted by prescribers, with patient knowledge, consent and training, to support adherence and optimize outcomes.
  • Drug or device restrictions or switches implemented for cost reasons should never compromise disease control or patient well-being.
  • While budget and sustainability concerns are important to all parties, enforced or encouraged switches among non-equivalent respiratory devices are neither health-based nor patient-focused.