Budget 2019: Moving forward on implementing national pharmacare

March 28, 2019                        Surrey, British Columbia                        Employment and Social Development Canada

Canadians are proud of their health care system, which provides care based on need and not the ability to pay. However, not everyone has access to affordable prescription drugs. In fact, Canadians face some of the highest drug costs in the world and drug coverage is uneven.

Today, in Surrey, the Honourable Filomena Tassi, Minister of Seniors, highlighted Budget 2019, Investing in the Middle Class. The Budget details how the Government is making sure middle‑class Canadians feel the impact of Canada’s economic growth. That includes helping more Canadians find an affordable home, prepare for well-paid jobs, retire with confidence and get prescription drugs when they need them.

Speaking at the Seniors Come Share Society, Minister Tassi highlighted the Government’s intention to work with its partners to move forward on three foundational elements of national pharmacare, introducted in Budget 2019.

  • Create the Canadian Drug Agency that would assess the effectiveness of new prescription drugs and negotiate drug prices on behalf of Canada’s drug plans. By negotiating better prices, this could help lower the cost of drugs for Canadians by up to $3 billion per year in the long term.
  • Take steps toward the development of a national formulary—a comprehensive, evidence-based list of prescribed drugs. The Government will work in partnership with provinces, territories and stakeholders to develop this list, which would provide the basis for a consistent approach to formulary listing and patient access across the country.
  • Establish a national strategy for high-cost drugs for rare diseases to help Canadians—many of whom are children—get better access to the effective treatments that they need. The Government will work with provinces, territories and other partners to co-develop a plan to ensure that patients with rare diseases have better and more consistent coverage for treatments.

These measures are an important first step in expanding drug coverage and moving forward on implementing national pharmacare. They are based on the consultations and interim report of the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare.

The Advisory Council’s final report is expected this spring.


“No seniors should have to cut their prescription drugs in half in order to put food on the table, or pay their rent. The new Canadian Drug Agency will help lower the cost of prescription drugs for Canadians, and a national approach will help make some of the most expensive drugs more accessible for Canadians with rare diseases. These measures mark important first steps on the way to a system that helps all Canadians get the medicine they need.”

– The Honourable Filomena Tassi, Minister of Seniors

Quick facts

  • Budget 2019 proposes to provide up to $1 billion over two years, starting in 2022–23, with up to $500 million per year ongoing, to help Canadians with rare diseases access the drugs they need and $35 million over four years, starting in 2019–20, to Health Canada to establish a Canadian Drug Agency Transition Office.
  • Every year, almost 1 million Canadians give up food and heat to afford medicines. Prescription drug spending in Canada has risen from $2.6 billion in 1985 to $33.7 billion in 2018.
  • In Budget 2018, the Government of Canada announced the creation of the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare to lead a national dialogue on how best to implement national pharmacare in a manner that is affordable for Canadians and their employers.
  • The Council has engaged thousands of Canadians from across the country through stakeholder roundtables, targeted engagement sessions and community town halls. Groups consulted included patients and caregivers, health care providers, representatives of Indigenous organizations, government officials, industry, labour, employers and academics.
  • The Advisory Council provided preliminary recommendations to the Government of Canada in its interim report, released on March 6, 2019.

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For media enquiries, please contact:

Lars Wessman
Office of the Minister of Seniors
[email protected]

Media Relations Office
Employment and Social Development Canada
[email protected]


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