Government of Canada Introduces Legislation for First Phase of National Universal Pharmacare

Press Release

From: Health Canada

February 29, 2024

Today, the Honourable Mark Holland, Minister of Health, introduced Bill C-64, An Act respecting pharmacare (Pharmacare Act), which proposes the foundational principles for first phase of national universal pharmacare in Canada and describes the Government of Canada’s intent to work with  provinces and territories (PTs) to provide universal, single-payer coverage for a number of contraception and diabetes medications.

The Minister also announced the government’s plan to establish a fund to support Canadians’ access to supplies that diabetics require to manage and monitor their condition and administer their medication, such as syringes and glucose test strips.

This legislation is an important step forward to improve health equity, affordability, and outcomes and has the potential of long-term savings to the health care system.

Coverage for contraceptives will mean that 9 million Canadians of reproductive age will have better access to contraception and reproductive autonomy, reducing the risk of unintended pregnancies and improving their ability to plan for the future. Cost has consistently been identified as the single most important barrier to access to these medications and the cost is unevenly borne by women and gender diverse Canadians. Bill C-64 will ensure that Canadians will have access to a comprehensive suite of contraceptive drugs and devices.

Diabetes is a complex disease that has no cure but can be treated with safe and effective medications. One in four Canadians with diabetes have reported not following their treatment plan due to cost. Improving access to diabetes medications will help improve the health of 3.7 million Canadians living with diabetes and reduce the risk of serious life-changing health complications such as blindness or amputations.

Over the past year, the Government of Canada has delivered on key actions to provide better and more accessible health care in Canada. Financial barriers should not be an impediment to accessing safe and effective prescription drugs and related products.  We are determined to work towards a plan where Canadians can obtain their medication as prescribed, regardless of where they live or their ability to pay.

The Bill demonstrates the Government of Canada’s commitment to consulting widely about the way forward and working with provinces, territories, Indigenous peoples and other partners and stakeholders to improve the accessibility, affordability and appropriate use of pharmaceutical products, by reducing financial barriers and contributing to physical and mental health and well-being.

Bill C-64 also provides that the new Canadian Drug Agency work towards the development of a national formulary, develop a national bulk purchasing strategy, and support the publication of a pan-Canadian strategy regarding the appropriate use of prescription medications.

Together, these elements would form the key next steps towards national universal pharmacare in Canada. The Minister would further establish a committee of experts to make recommendations on the operation and financing of national, universal, single-payer pharmacare in Canada.

Bill C-64 proposes a significant change to our heath care landscape, which, together with the learnings from ongoing initiatives such as the National Strategy for Drugs for Rare Diseases and the Improving Affordable Access to Prescriptions Drugs initiative with Prince Edward Island, are part of the Government of Canada’s plan to ensure Canadians can access the medicines they need and pave the way forward towards the implementation of national universal pharmacare in Canada.


“Each and every Canadian should have access to the prescription drugs they need. That’s why we’re working with our partners towards the first phase of national universal pharmacare. This important next step will provide universal access to contraception and diabetes medication that will be transformational in improving health outcomes in Canada.”

The Honourable Mark Holland
Minister of Health

Quick facts

  • On December 18, 2023, the Government of Canada announced the creation of the Canadian Drug Agency with an investment of over $89.5 million over 5 years, starting in 2024-25. The Agency will provide the dedicated leadership and coordination needed to make Canada’s drug system more sustainable and prepared for the future and help Canadians achieve better health outcomes.
  • On March 22 2023, the Government of Canada announced measures in support of the first-ever National Strategy for Drugs for Rare Diseases, with an investment of up to $1.5 billion over three years to help increase access to, and the affordability of, effective drugs for rare diseases. Bill C-64 commits to a model for long-term funding, beginning with funding for the National Strategy for Drugs for Rare Diseases and to be primarily provided through bilateral agreements with provinces and territories.
  • PEI residents have saved over $2 million in out-of-pocket costs on more than 230,000 prescriptions under PEI’s $5 copay program, which was launched in June 2023 and reduced copays for almost 60% of medications regularly used by Island residents. These latest improvements are an important milestone of the Improving Affordable Access to Prescriptions Drugs (IAAPD) initiative that provides federal funding to PEI to improve access to prescription drugs and make prescriptions drugs more affordable for Island residents.

Associated links


Christopher Aoun
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Mark Holland
Minister of Health

Media Relations
Health Canada and Public Health Agency of Canada

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