The federal Liberal government’s plan for national pharmacare will be hampered by the constitutional separation of powers and, like the fight over the carbon tax, a pan-Canadian solution may be difficult, say lawyers.
The Liberals recently laid out their intention to devise a national pharmacare plan in the 2019 budget proposal. According to a backgrounder from the federal Department of Finance, the government plans to work with its partners to create a new federal agency called the Canadian Drug Agency. The agency would test new drugs, negotiate prices with drug sellers, devise a list of the most cost-effective drugs to include in a national formulary and will develop a “national strategy” to help those with rare diseases get the high-cost drugs necessary for their treatment, the document states. With Canadians spending more every year on pharmaceutical drugs, the government says this will lower the cost of those drugs.
“The structure of the program will be a tricky negotiation between the federal and provincial governments,” says Timothy Gilbert, founder and managing partner of Gilbert's LLP, adding that several provinces are currently fighting the federal government on carbon pricing.