Canada is the only developed country with universal health insurance coverage that does not also offer universal prescription drug benefits.
About one in 10 Canadians say they can’t afford to take their medications as prescribed, previous studies suggest.
In Monday’s issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, researchers say the extra total cost to government of providing universal pharmacare could range as high as $5.4 billion a year, but would likely be about $1 billion, depending on exactly how much can be saved through bulk purchases of medications and other measures.
At the same time, it would save the private sector the $8.2 billion annually it spends on prescription drugs, mainly through employee health plans.
Studies in the U.S. suggest that providing prescription medications for free to patients increases the chance they’ll actually take the medicines they need and, in the long run, improves their health and reduces their demand on the health-care system.