On February 29, 2024, the federal government tabled Bill C-64, An Act respecting pharmacare (the Pharmacare Act). The Pharmacare Act outlines the “foundational principles” for the first phase of a national universal drug coverage plan in Canada. The legislation includes a commitment to first launch diabetes medication and contraceptives coverage for Canadians through a universal, single-payer system, contingent on provincial and territorial agreement.

Bill C-64 was introduced and had its first reading on February 29, 2024 in the House of Commons.

Background on Pharmacare

Following an announcement in the 2018-2019 federal budget, an Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare (Advisory Council) was created in 2018 to consult on a program to fund prescription drugs. 

The Advisory Council released a Final Report in 2019, which included recommendations on the creation of: (1) a Canadian Drug Agency (CDA), (2) a national formulary, and (3) a national strategy for high-cost drugs for rare diseases.

The CDA was formed in December of 2023 with the stated mandate of providing “the dedicated leadership and coordination needed to make Canada’s drug system more sustainable and better prepared for the future, helping Canadians achieve better health outcomes.”

The Pharmacare Act

The Government of Canada has committed to maintaining long-term funding for the provinces, territories, and Indigenous peoples to improve the accessibility and affordability of pharmaceutical products.

The Pharmacare Act provides the Minister of Health (the Minister) with the power to make payments to a province or territory, subject to an agreement with the province or territory, to provide coverage for certain prescription drugs and related products intended for contraception or the treatment of diabetes. 

Health Canada has shared lists of the particular contraceptive and diabetes medications and supplies that are to be discussed with the provinces and territories for specific coverage.

The Pharmacare Act’s stated purpose also includes:

  • continuing to work toward the implementation of national universal pharmacare;
  • supporting the CDA’s development of a national formulary list of essential prescription drugs and related products;
  • providing for the development of a national bulk purchasing strategy; and
  • preparing a strategy regarding the appropriate use of prescription drugs.

Finally, the Act requires the Minister to establish a Committee of Experts to make recommendations on the operation and financing of national, universal, single-payer pharmacare.

Bill C-64 still needs to undergo several stages of review before the Pharmacare Act is passed into law.