The image of Canada’s vaunted public health plan just took a major hit.
During the hullabaloo surrounding passage of President Obama’s signature piece of legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka, Obamacare), proponents extolled the virtues of Canada’s free healthcare system. Critics slammed that same system for its alleged wait times (among other sins).
A new report from Canada’s Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx&D) sheds considerable light on the latter.
Rx&D notes that 64% of available new medicines were reimbursed in at least one province. However, when only considering products that were “reimbursable across provinces accounting for at least 80% of the eligible national public drug plan population,” Canada fares much worse. A scant 23% of new medicines received public reimbursement across the country, with Canada ranking 17 of 18 in a list that includes the US, EU, Japan, and China.
But it gets worse. Canada was the quickest to launch new drugs – at 74 days – but amongst the slowest to reimburse. Remember those wait times? In the 80% eligibility bracket, Canadians waited an average of 462 days for access to new drugs. Allow me to repeat that for emphasis – 462 days.
In the US, patients wait half as long for access to new drugs and a tiny bit more for initial launch.
Rx&D President Russell Williams lamented that “more and more, public drug plans in Canada are making new medicines available only on a conditional, case-by-case basis – resulting in more administration, longer wait times for patients before beginning treatment, increased paperwork for physicians; and most importantly, no guarantee that patients will receive coverage.” “These new treatments are being developed to improve health outcomes, to cure diseases and to help Canadians better live with chronic conditions,” he said.
Overall and across all eligibility brackets, Canada reimburses about 47% of medicines launched, compared to 77% in the US. (The US also launches the most medicines by a large margin.)
The politics of healthcare reform and public vs. private systems are beyond the scope of Pharm Pro, but these findings shed light on an extremely pertinent topic, and many of our readers proudly contribute to the aforementioned 77%.