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COMMENTARY: Time for a national prescription drug plan

Pharmacist Denis Boissinot checks a bottle on a shelf at his pharmacyin Quebec City.
Pharmacist Denis Boissinot checks a bottle on a shelf at his pharmacyin Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Canadians pay way too much for prescription drugs. We’ve known that for a long time but a new study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal once again confirms that cold reality.

In fact, the study is quite revealing.

READ MORE: What you need to know about a universal prescription drug plan

Canada is compared to nine other countries: Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the U.K., France , Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

All of those countries offer universal coverage for outpatient prescriptions; Canada does not.

The average per person cost for meds in those countries was $122 in 2015. In Canada, it was $158.

READ MORE: Sticker shock: How the prices of life-saving drugs skyrocket overnight

That means that Canadians spent about $2.3 billion more than we would have if we had the same kind of drug plans as those other countries.

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What’s even more troubling is a companion study shows that almost 30 per cent of Canadians who are prescribed medications don’t fill the prescription because they can’t afford the cost.

So why does Canada lag so far behind?

The short answer is that for decades now, federal governments have avoided the drug plan issue because of the price tag associated with such a plan.

But with an aging population and with fewer and fewer Canadians receiving private sector coverage, it’s long past time for Canadians to demand what so many other countries already provide.

Bill Kelly is the host of Bill Kelly Show on AM 900 CHML and a commentator for Global News.

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