Essential Medicines in Canada: What is Essential and How Accessible Is It?

Session Date: 
Monday, April 16, 2018 - 15:15 to 16:30
Concurrent Session C3 — Panel Discussion

  • Dr. Nav Persaud, St. Michael’s Hospital and University of Toronto
  • Nevzeta Bosnic, Patented Medicine Prices Review Board

The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a list of essential medicines that satisfy the priority health care needs of people around the world, and it recommends that nations adapt this list to local circumstances and facilitate easy access of these medicines to all their citizens. A Canadian list of essential medicines could enable various levels of government to cover the cost of drugs that meet the core health needs of Canadians, and may even provide the basis of a first step toward a national formulary. Currently, a potential list based on the WHO model and adapted to primary care in Canada is being developed through peer review by clinicians using Canadian prescribing patterns. ‎This panel will explain how a drug is determined to be essential, what is included on the current putative list of essential medicines in Canada and how the list was developed and may be expected to evolve. An overview of the spending on these medicines in Canada will be provided along with insights into their treatment cost at a patient level. The discussion will include the results of a recent analysis that assessed the extent to which these medicines are listed on Canadian public formularies. The panel will highlight the potential implications of essential medicines lists for Canada and other high-income countries, including their limitations, the challenges associated with implementation, and the need for further evaluation. ‎The discussion will inform the dialogue on improving the affordability and accessibility of necessary prescription drugs, including exploring the need for a national formulary.