A new report from the Canadian Federation of Nurses Union shows that Big Pharma — including many American corporations — are lobbying intensely to kill universal pharmacare.

The Big Money Club report tracks lobbying efforts by pharmaceutical and insurance industry players in recent years, finding that lobbying efforts have increased dramatically — 500% by their estimate — in the past year. This coincides with the initiation of the Federal government’s process to determine next steps on implementing some form of pharmacare program.

Industry groups are lobbying the government for a patchwork, means-tested program which would leave many Canadians outside of any public pharmacare program.

They are concerned that a universal single-payer system — similar to Canada’s broader healthcare system — would cut into their enormous profits.

Patchwork System Costing Canadians

The CFNU report estimates that the lack of a universal pharmacare program is costing Canadians $14,000 each minute due to inefficiencies and bloated costs of prescription drugs. A universal pharmacare plan would save Canadians $4.2 billion per year according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

While these savings would benefit Canadians, they would come at a price for large corporations which profit off prescription drugs. Any universal pharmacare program would cut into the profits of Big Pharma and the insurance industry. From 2010 to 2015, the 25 largest drug companies enjoyed steep profit margins of 20%.

Intense Lobbying Underway

It’s no surprise, then, that industry is mobilizing an aggressive effort to pressure the Federal government into adopting a means-tested, patchwork pharmacare plan that would protect their profits.

In the past year, pharma lobbyists held 104 meetings with government officials — up 500% from 2008 levels.

At the same time, many “think tanks” like the Fraser Institute — which has received huge donations from pharma billionaires and the Koch Brothers — are aggressively attacking universal pharmacare. Last year alone, the Fraser Institue published six pieces criticizing universal pharmacare and promoting the industry-friendly patchwork system. Other similar institutions have undertaken similar propaganda campaigns on behalf of their benefactors in the pharmaceutical industry.

Canadians Overwhelmingly Favours Universal Pharmacare

While the Federal government faces intense pressure to fold to industry on pharmacare, the Canadian public remains strongly in favour of a universal pharmacare system.

A CNFU-commissioned Environics poll from January 2019 found that 84% of Canadians support expanding the public health care system to cover prescription drugs.

It remains to be seen what sort of pharmacare system the Federal government will propose. But with an election coming up in October, succumbing to pressure from Big Pharma and ignoring the will of Canadians could cost politicians at the ballot box.

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