Nurses praise report calling for national pharmacare program

June 13, 2019

A report calling for a universal, single-payer national pharmacare plan is being lauded by the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) as a solution to improve access to medications while curbing Canada’s high drug costs.

On June 12, Dr. Eric Hoskins, the chair of the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare called on the federal government to work with provinces and territories to create a universal, single-payer public pharmacare system. “As nurses, we know far too many Canadians have to make difficult choices every day between filling prescriptions and paying for other life essentials like food and rent. That’s why we applaud Dr. Hoskins and the council for forging ahead with a universal pharmacare plan that is desperately needed,” says RNAO CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun.

In 2018, Canadians spent around $34 billion on prescription medication through a patchwork of provincial and private drug plans. The report warns that by 2027, in the absence of a pharmacare plan, those costs could rise to $55.8 billion. It predicts Canadians would save roughly $5 billion a year once the recommended plan is fully implemented in 2027. 

“It is clear a single-payer system would save Canadians’ lives and money. It is also clear that Canadians and provincial and territorial governments are struggling with the high and escalating cost of drugs,” says RNAO president Dr. Angela Cooper Brathwaite, adding that Canada is the only country with universal health care that doesn’t have universal pharmacare. “Implementing these recommendations will make us all winners.”

The report’s 60 recommendations comprehensively cover all important issues in pharmacare, including having an arms-length drug agency to oversee the creation of an evidenced-based list of covered drugs, negotiating lower prices for drugs (i.e. through bulk buying) and developing guidelines for safe and appropriate prescribing.  

The report calls for a phase-in, with essential drugs covered in 2022 and additional medications added by 2027. RNAO urges the federal government to move quickly to implement all of the report’s recommendations and to accelerate proposed timelines.

The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve. For more information about RNAO, visit our website at or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Contact info

Victoria Alarcon
Communications Officer/Writer
Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO)