Medication access should not depend on your job, says advocate

A healthcare expert says politicians don’t have enough 'skin in the game' to fight for publicly funded medication

Medication access should not depend on your job, says advocate

While a vast number of Canadians would benefit from better public provision of medications, such reform is largely at the mercy of MPs that already enjoy comprehensive coverage.

“While approximately three million Canadians don’t take medications as directed because of the cost, MPs and other lawmakers enjoy platinum medication plans for themselves and their families,” said Nav Persaud, a Toronto-based physician and scientist, and expert advisor with

In a recent think piece, Persaud noted that the House is not representative of the Canadian population. Only twenty-six per cent of MPs are women, and there’s also a question of how much racial diversity there is on Parliament Hill. MPs’ limited diversity and exposure to Canada’s frayed patchwork health system, Persaud suggested, could affect their willingness to fight for universal public funding of medications.

“Studies in the United States have shown that lawmakers who have children in private schools are less likely to vote for laws that support public schools,” he said. “Canadian lawmakers may be slow to support publicly-funded mediation access for all Canadians because they wouldn’t be affected by the change – their coverage is already great.”

Aside from multiple reports recommending public funding of medications over the last 40 years, there have also been surveys revealing overwhelming sentiment among Canadians that access to medications should not depend on one’s job.

And costs should not be an issue. In Canada, $30 billion per year is already being spent on medications, 40% of which is covered by government spending. Couple that with bulk purchasing that would reduce prices per pill, and it should be possible to publicly fund the most important essential medicines for every person in Canada.

Referring to a model list of essential medicines that was created by the World Health Organization, Persaud said Canada could follow the lead of more than 100 countries and use the list to create an equitable publicly funded medication policy.

“There are two ways to level the playing field between lawmakers and everyone else,” he said. “We could publicly fund essential medications for everyone in Canada just like we publicly fund essential health-care services … Or we could give lawmakers the same medication coverage plans as food servers and see if that speeds up their deliberations about publicly-funding medications.”