The Canadian Diabetes Association released a report Thursday that points out a need to ensure equal access to essential medications across the country.
The report, called "Common Ground: Exploring Opportunities to Enhance the Drug Review Process in Canada," says improvements are needed to make sure all Canadians can obtain the drugs they need to manage their health.
"Currently, equity and access depend on where people live as well as their ability to afford medications. This is not acceptable," Dr. Janet Hux, the CDA's chief scientific adviser, said in a news release.
The inequity points to a need to examine the drug review process and pharmacare more broadly, Hux said, adding, "Approaches such as a national program to provide access to essential drugs and a common drug formulary are important for all Canadians regardless of where they live in the country."
The report's recommendations stem from the Summit on a Renewed Vision for the Common Drug Review held in June. Participants in the summit, which included patient groups, government, arm's-length government agencies, academia and others, identified three main priorities:
- Ensure clarity regarding all aspects of the drug review process;
- Improve how patient experience, societal costs and benefits are included in the assessment of cost-effectiveness;
- Strengthen transparency, accountability and public disclosure.
Hux noted, ""For Canadians to have equitable access to a full range of medications essential to achieve optimal health, the drug review process must balance clinical effectiveness and patient experience with societal priorities and resources."
The report explains that access to necessary medications isn't always equal in Canada. "Unlike hospitals and physician services, public coverage for drugs is not guaranteed in Canada. While some provinces have enhanced coverage for those on low incomes or with high drug costs, a national plan remains stalled and access to medications depends not necessarily on need but instead on where Canadians live, work, and their income."
Consequently, Canadians with chronic disease who don't have public coverage such as social assistance or seniors' benefit, or private insurance through employers or other sources, can face "excessive out-of-pocket costs that prevent access to prescribed drug therapy.
The report notes that while about 10 per cent of Canadians skip medications because of cost, that figure climbs to almost 25 per cent for those with chronic disease. In addition, while one in 10 has trouble paying for medications even if they have insurance, the number rises to one in four for those without coverage.
Clearly, something is wrong if factors such as affordability are keeping Canadians from obtaining prescribed medications that are necessary for them to have optimum health. All Canadians should have access to the medications they need regardless of where they live or how much they earn.
Government officials should take a close look at the recommendations in the CDA's report and take steps to fix this health-care gap.
Comment on this editorial at www.lethbridgeherald.com/