National pharmacare for antimicrobials

Canada is a patchwork of private – public coverage for pharmaceuticals. All provinces have pharmacare plans but they vary widely in coverage. Saskatchewan and Manitoba have forms of universal coverage while other provinces cover specific groups such as those on social services and the elderly.

In 2005 the first ministers conference saw a plea for a national pharmacare plan endorsed by all premiers. It was widely discredited as a provincial grab for federal money as a response to pharmaceuticals being the most rapidly expanding sector of healthcare expenditure. It was scoffed at by the federal government and deemed to be “too expensive” for consideration. This despite overwhelming evidence that the buying power and reduced bureaucracy afforded by cooperation would result in significant savings.

How about just antimicrobials? The federal expense would not be prohibitive. Outpatient antimicrobials total less than a billion dollars annually. It could lay the groundwork for future expansion to other classes and most importantly it would distinguish antimicrobials as needing special regulatory attention.

A National Antimicrobial Pharmacare plan is a sensible approach to the ever-expanding problem of antimicrobial resistance.