Necessary Medicines: Recommendations of the Citizens’ Reference Panel on Pharmacare in Canada

6 December 2016

Today, a panel of Canadian citizens assembled to present recommendations about the future of prescription drug coverage in Canada to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Health.

The Citizens' Reference Panel on Pharmacare in Canada, which was in part funded by MSFHR, is a group of 35 individuals from across the country assembled to share their perspectives on access to prescription medicines in Canada and offer policy-makers clear and considered recom­mendations.

The panel was selected via a civic lottery where 10,000 letters were mailed at random to Canadian households, inviting residents to volunteer for the panel as an act of public service. The final 35, selected at random from the 387 Canadians who stepped forward, include five BC locals from Burnaby, Chilliwack, Gibsons, Kamloops and Sorrento.

Under the guidance of Dr. Steven Morgan, a 2014 MSFHR Scholar and professor of health policy at UBC's School of Population and Public Health, the panelists received an intensive 'crash course' on how medications are prescribed, used, and paid for in Canada and around the world. From this, the panelists developed a set of policy recommendations based on a set of core principles they felt represented their values as Canadians: that coverage be universal, patient-centred, accountable to the public, evidence-based, and sustainable.

The recommendations:

  • A universal, mandatory public drug insurance system that provides necessary coverage to all Canadians and is extensive enough to accommodate the full range of individual patient needs, including rare diseases.
  • Rigorous cost-effectiveness evaluation for all medications to ensure funded treatments provide efficacy and value for money.
  • Optional supplemental private drug insurance for medications not included on the formulary as well as other para-medical services.
  • Increased negotiating power leading to lower drug costs.
  • Coverage of an essential short list of basic, frequently prescribed medicines list as an urgent first step to fill the largest gaps in prescription drug coverage.
  • Modest income and corporate tax increases to fund the program, including consideration of co-payment models provided they do not create an unreasonable barrier for low-income individuals.

"This distinctive approach to public engagement helps to illuminate an often neglected civic perspective," says Morgan. "As a result of the rigour and integrity of the process, the vision and recom­mendations of the Citizens' Reference Panel on Pharmacare in Canada is an important guide for policy analysis, planning, implementation, and evaluation."


The Citizens' Reference Panel on Pharmacare was funded by a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research with support from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, the Mindset Social Innovation Foundation, the University of British Columbia, the University of Toronto, Women's College Hospital, and the CIHR Institute of Health Services and Policy Research.

For more information and to download a copy of the report visit