Pharmacare, agreement between NDP and Liberals: the government is safe, so far

OTTAWA – Justin Trudeau’s minority government supported by Jagmeet Singh’s NDP is safe, so far: an agreement has in fact been reached between the Liberals and New Democrats on pharmacare, free access to some types of drugs. On it, the NDP had given the Trudeau government an ultimatum: either it passes by March 1, or the NDP’s support fades and we go to vote. Trudeau and the Liberals have obviously given in: if we go to vote now, according to the polls, the Conservatives would win by a landslide. 

In reality, the pharmacare “birthed” by the Liberals and NDP is rather limited: it would in fact only concern drugs for diabetes and those for birth control. All other drugs would have been excluded (the conditional is a “must” because the program has not yet been officially presented): antibiotics, cholesterol and blood pressure drugs, and psychiatric drugs such as antidepressants are out of the deal. Apparently, including them all would cost too much. However, the final discussions are still underway and the final details of the program will be known in the next few days.

Anyway, the NDP leader is satisfied and he declared that he fought for free diabetes medicines also because of a promise made to a child he had met years ago. “He told me he’s not worried about his life-threatening disease” Singh said, “but he’s worried about how much it will cost (for his parents). Now I can tell him and millions of other Canadians that they will be able to get diabetes drugs…”.

All provinces cover 80% of out-of-pocket costs for young people with type 1 diabetes, but coverage for adults with type 2 diabetes varies widely, meaning that, depending on their location, families can spend thousands of dollars a year for diabetes medications and supplies. The new deal includes all insulin for type 1 and type 2 diabetes, as well as additional diabetes drugs and a fund for supplies such as glucose monitoring devices. However, the program will not include “Ozempic,” a new diabetes drug that has been used off-label as a weight-loss drug. The government is also expected to include contraceptives, including emergency contraceptive drugs, more commonly known as “morning-after pills”. According to the NDP leader, “it was important to include coverage for contraceptives in order to protect a woman’s right to choose…”.

The Liberals have already raised concerns about the potential costs of pharmaceutical treatments, although the NDP pushed for the program to include more of it from the start. A financial commitment will come soon, Singh said. In turn, the Liberals have made it clear they have about $800 million to spend on an initial program, a source told The Canadian Press. Few. In fact, if the federal government moved toward full implementation of national pharmaceutical assistance, the broader program would cost about $40 billion per year.

In the pic above: NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh (from Twitter X – @theJagmeetSingh)