Best Medicines Coalition urging Ministers to ensure new policies expand access to prescription medicines
The Best Medicines Coalition (BMC), a national alliance of patient groups, released its Equitable Pharmaceutical Care: Principles and Considerations Regarding Pharmacare in advance of the January 20–21 Federal/Provincial/Territorial Health Ministers Meeting in Vancouver. The six key principles are universality, national scope, broad inclusivity, therapeutic options, timely access, and collaboration (as defined below).
- Universality – Prescription medications have become an essential part of many treatment regimes, with their potential to improve patient outcomes and save lives while bringing economic value to the health care system. All Canadians have a right to access medically necessary medications, and our programs must include this integral aspect of treatment in a consistent fashion across all jurisdictions.
- National scope – A system for all Canadians to ensure equitable and consistent access to medicines must be national in scope, regardless of whether there is central administration or the current structure of provincial/territorial health care delivery. If delivered regionally, then pharmaceutical care must be portable throughout the country and national standards are required to ensure equity for all Canadians, no matter where they live.
- Broad inclusivity – There should be no limits placed on the types of conditions covered within any Canadian pharmacare program framework. All programs must be comprehensive and inclusive of all chronic, episodic, or acute conditions, regardless of incidence.
- Therapeutic options – Canadians have a right to a high standard of pharmaceutical treatment, with access to a secure supply of a full array of approved medications, including both long- standing compounds and more recently approved advancements. Likewise, the concept of “the right medication at the right time” must be a central premise, enabling patients to benefit from those medications most appropriate for them.
Programs must offer a range of medicines, which provide therapeutic options, so that treatment is not limited to a narrow selection of drugs within a particular class, since individual – even small – variations affect patient response and outcomes. Likewise, programs must be inclusive of all types of medication formats (e.g., oral, intravenous) and delivery systems.
- Timely access – Extended wait times to receive medically necessary pharmaceutical treatments are unacceptable. Access delayed is access denied and so leaders must ensure that efficiency and timeliness be entrenched within any pharmacare framework including the review, assessment, and reimbursement processes.
- Collaboration – Whether pursued nationally, in a pan-Canadian framework, or regionally, Canadians need significant pharmaceutical policy reform that involves full consultation with all stakeholders and careful consideration of options and implications. While this process is underway, decision-makers and drug program leaders have a responsibility to continue to use current policy, program, and budgetary options to address specific pharmacare challenges, which directly affect the lives of patients.
The Principles reflect the shared vision of BMC’s 23 member organizations (including Arthritis Consumer Experts) which represent a large cross-section of the Canadian patient community, including arthritis, gastrointestinal disease, HIV/AIDS, cancer and others. The Principles have been provided to all Health Ministers to support the BMC’s call for making pharmaceutical reform a priority and to ensure that patient voices are heard.