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CMHA responds to Government of Canada announcement on Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare

On June 20, 2018, the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health, and the Honourable Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance, announced that the Government has appointed six Canadians as members of the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare. The members of this new committee, led by Dr. Eric Hoskins, are Dr. Nadine Caron, Mr. Vincent Dumez, Ms. Mia Homsy (Vice-Chair), Ms. Camille Orridge, Ms. Diana Whalen and Mr. John Wright.  

The establishment of this council is an important step in creating universal access to medications in Canada, which is crucial for ensuring that our health care system is fair and equitable for all Canadians.   

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) hopes that mental health and access to medications for people with mental illness will be important considerations for the advisory council, which will be conducting research and consultations to develop options and recommendations for implementing a national pharmacare program.  

Mental illness is a high-prevalence health problem in Canada. In any given year, one in five Canadians experience mental illness. However, many Canadians who struggle with mental illness forgo basic needs such as food, heat, and other health care expenses because of drug costs. Conversely, many Canadians will skip doses, delay refilling their prescriptions, or opt not to fill them at all because the costs exceed what they are able to pay, and Canadians suffering from mood disorders, namely depression and anxiety, are the group most likely to forgo their medications. At the same time, for successful treatment and recovery, Canadians with mental illness need access to a wide range of pharmacological therapies. The treatment of mental illness is complex; in a single mental illness diagnosis – such as depression – there is heterogeneity in how it is expressed and in how individual Canadians with depression respond to medications.  

Given the high burden of mental illness in Canada and the concerns around equity in access to medications, CMHA hopes that the advisory council will leverage our expertise on mental illness and its implications for pharmacare. We look forward to working in collaboration with the advisory council to ensure that mental health and equitable access to psychiatric medications are part of a national plan for pharmacare in Canada.