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UBC study suggests need for national drug plan

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Canada compared to nine other wealthy countries with universal health care

Only people in Switzerland pay more for drugs per capita

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A new study of drug costs for common conditions such as high blood pressure and depression says Canada had the second-highest prices in 2015 when compared to nine other wealthy countries with universal health care.

Lead author Steven Morgan, a professor at the UBC’s Public School of Health, says Canada’s drug costs were compared to seven European countries along with Australia and New Zealand.

The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, compares drug costs for six conditions — high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, diabetes, pain, and gastrointestinal issues such as ulcers.

On the low end, New Zealand spent an average of $23 per person that year, while Switzerland spent the most at $171 per capita.

In Canada, the cost was $158 per person.

Canada was also the only country in the study that lacked universal coverage of outpatient prescription medications.

“We have a paradoxical health system: we have a single-payer system for medical and hospital care, and we have a disconnected and multi-payer system for pharmaceuticals, which creates significant structural inefficiencies, and reduces our purchasing power on the world market,” Morgan says.

He adds a national drug plan would allow the federal government to negotiate with drug companies to buy prescription drugs in bulk and lower prices to benefit people who currently can’t afford them.