What we’re doing: Using the World Health Organization Model List of Essential Medicines as a starting point, we gathered scientific evidence and input from physicians and clinicians-scientists to create a list of effective and essential medications for the Canadian context. Now, we’re working with two Family Health Teams in Toronto and two in Northern Ontario to provide people who can’t pay for their prescriptions with the medications on this list. We’ll then compare the health outcomes and health care use of people who received free medications to those who didn’t, and use this information to advocate for better access to prescription medication for all.

Why we’re doing it: Millions of people living in Canada cannot afford prescription medications. Canada is the only high income country where health care services are publicly insured but medications are not. This has impacts on the health of people living in Canada and on our health care systems. When people don’t take medication as directed, they have poorer health outcomes, and there are increased costs to the health care system.

Our Partners: 

The study is supported by a number of community and organizational partners, and is funded through the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Ontario Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research Support Unit and the St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation.

Action Point:

The existing patchwork system of public and private drug benefit plans is forcing millions of people living in Canada to make unfair and untenable choices about their health. Ontario needs to develop a system for medication coverage for all residents built on principles of equity and accessibility.

A number of community and policy groups are actively organizing around the issue of pharmacare. For more information or to get involved, check out:

The Council of Canadians

The Wellesley Institute

Online, activists are convening under the hashtags #NatDrugPlan4All

For more information: Please contact Nav Persaud at nav.persaud@utoronto.ca


Gagnon, M.A., A Roadmap to a Rational Pharmacare Policy in Canada. 2014, School of Public Policy & Administration, Carleton University. Available here.

Hoskins, E, The time for national pharmacare has come, in Toronto Star. 2014: Toronto. Available here.

Law, M.R., et al., The effect of cost on adherence to prescription medications in Canada. CMAJ, 2012. 184(3): p. 297-302. Full text available here.

Morgan, S.G., J.R. Daw, and M.R. Law, Rethinking pharmacare in Canada. 2013: CD Howe Institute. Available here.