Social Justice and Democracy

Health and labour groups aligned in push for universal access to prescription drugs

February 16, 2021

Heart & Stroke, Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) have teamed up to raise the urgency of a national pharmacare plan. The groups have launched a campaign calling on Canadians to tell the federal government that Canada deserves #PharmacareNow.

Heart & Stroke, CLC and CFNU are working together for the first time around a shared commitment to ensuring everyone in Canada can get the medication they need through a national, universal, public single-payer pharmacare program.

“Canada is the only country in the world with universal health care that does not provide universal pharmacare, leaving 7.5 million Canadians with insufficient or no drug coverage,” says Doug Roth, CEO, Heart & Stroke. “We know that some groups are more affected than others – including racialized Canadians and women. Many people are forced to make difficult decisions by cutting spending on food and heat to pay for the prescriptions their families need for their health.”

Through the online campaign at, Canadians can send a letter to the federal government urging it to take immediate action on its commitment to implementing national, universal pharmacare. This includes allocating sufficient funding in the coming 2021 Federal Budget and implementing an initial common formulary of essential medicines by July 1, 2021.

“COVID-19 has resulted in more people losing their jobs and consequently losing their benefits. In fact Canadians are twice as likely to have lost prescription drug coverage as to have gained it over the past year,” says Hassan Yussuff, President, Canadian Labour Congress. “Now more than ever, Canada needs universal single-payer pharmacare.”

“Support for pharmacare is strong. Over 90% of Canadians feel it is important for everyone to have equal access to prescription drugs, the federal government’s own expert advisory council recommended a universal, public, single-payer program, and the government has committed to it. We need action now,” says Linda Silas, President, Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.

To take action and tell the federal government Canada deserves #PharmacareNow go to


• One in four Canadian households have difficulty filling needed prescriptions.
• Three million Canadians do not fill their prescriptions because they cannot afford to.
• One million Canadians cut spending on food and heat to afford their medication.
• Canadians are twice as likely to have lost prescription drug coverage as to have gained it over the past year.
• In 2019, Canadian pharmacies dispensed roughly 101 million prescriptions for medications to treat cardiovascular disease representing more than any other category of prescription drugs.
• Prescription drug costs are the second largest category of health spending following hospitals.
• 16% of Canadians have gone without medication for heart disease, cholesterol and hypertension due to cost.
• The prohibitive cost of prescription drugs contributes to the premature death of about 1000 working-age Canadians each year from ischemic heart disease and diabetes alone.
• Universal pharmacare would reduce total spending on prescription drugs in Canada by 5$ billion annually.
• Canada’s patchwork of more than 100 public and 100,000 private drug plans is one of the most expensive in the world.

About Heart & Stroke

Life. We don’t want you to miss it. That’s why we need to beat inequity and Heart & Stroke leads the fight against heart disease and stroke. We must generate the next medical breakthroughs, so Canadians don’t miss out on precious moments. Together, we are working to prevent disease, save lives and promote recovery through research, health promotion and public policy.

About Canadian Labour Congress

The Canadian Labour Congress is the largest labour organization in Canada, bringing together dozens of national and international unions, provincial and territorial federations of labour and community-based labour councils to represent more than three million workers across the country.

About Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions
The CFNU is Canada’s largest nurses’ organization, representing about 200,000 nurses and student nurses, and advocating on key health priorities and federal engagement in public health care.

Contact Information

Heart & Stroke
Stephanie Lawrence

Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions
Lauren Snowball

Canadian Labour Congress
Amy Boughner


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