Gamechangers

Imagining a government that works for Canadians

Liberals try new stall tactic to protect Big Pharma from universal pharmacare

The Trudeau Liberals are once more deploying misdirections in their campaign to protect Big Pharma and insurance companies from the threat of a single-payer prescription drug plan that covers everyone and saves billions.

Every year, up to 640 people die of curable diseases — and almost 100,000 are suffering and sick — because they can’t afford the medicines they need, according to a report from the Canadian Nurses Federation.

Video courtesy of Christo Aivalis

About seven million Canadians lack prescription drug insurance. Millions more have plans limited by co-payments, deductibles and coverage limits.

Numerous government reports have found that a single-payer public drug insurance plan that would cover all Canadians, could eliminate fees while saving billions of dollars over the current patchwork system.

Of course, those billions in savings would come out of the hides of Big Pharma and insurance industries — who are fiercely fighting them. Canada remains the only OECD country with a medicare plan that excludes prescriptions.

The Chrétien Liberals first promised an undefined “national” pharmacare plan in 1997. And though Liberals formed government after elections in 1997, 2000, 2004 and 2015, Big Pharma and insurance companies continue to rule over the existing patchwork private system.

This week, rather than commit to their decades-old promise of pharmacare, the Trudeau Liberals successfully spun media as they congratulated themselves on continuing to delay changes to drug price regulations until after the next election.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor’s much-delayed regulatory changes were widely reported as “paving the way for pharmacare” though they do nothing to give prescription drug coverage to the millions of Canadians without it.

The regulations were first promised in May 2017, when former Health Minister Jane Phillpot announced plans to eliminate the US as a drug price comparator when setting drug prices in Canada. The United States has the highest-priced pharmaceuticals in the world. Canada is second.

Those regulations were announced to come into effect on December 1, 2018, but were never implemented. This week’s announcement by Petitpas Taylor now further delays implementation — until July, 2020, after the next election.

Liberal ties to Big Pharma are almost as legend as the Liberal spin machine.

In the summer before the 2015 election, Toronto Big Pharma billionaire Barry Sherman held a private cash-for-access fundraising event attended by Justin Trudeau. And in 2016, Sherman sold tickets for a $500 per person cash-for-access Liberal fundraiser featuring Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

Investigations were launched into both events, but called off when Sherman died in early 2018.

According to the federal lobbyist registrar, Big Pharma lobbyists held more than 700 lobbying “events” with the Liberals since 2015.

Before entering politics, Finance Minister Bill Morneau was CEO of Morneau-Shepell, the company he inherited from his father, which administers companies’ private drug plans. Morneau continued to hold about a million shares in the company while Finance Minister.

Morneau has been openly hostile to any proposal for a single-payer public plan.

The Trudeau government has three times signed off on trade deals that expand Big Pharma’s power. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, Canada-Europe Trade Agreement and the new NAFTA deal all extended the monopoly price protection of pharmaceutical companies’ products.

For months, Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats have been focussing on the problems caused by lack of pharmacare. The NDP’s “New Deal for People,” unveiled in June, commits to a single-payer universal prescription plan.