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Analysis

Multinational Drug and Insurance Companies Sponsored Lobbying Efforts To Stop Universal Pharmacare in Canada

The Chamber of Commerce's "National Pharmacare Working Group" was sponsored by multinational pharmaceutical and insurance companies

The pharmaceutical and insurance industry is quietly preparing a campaign to stop a coalition of 150 Canadian organizations pushing the federal government to follow the recommendations of its own expert panel and bring in a universal, single-payer pharmacare system.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has launched an “action plan” on behalf “business stakeholders across the country,” namely “benefits providers” and “pharmaceutical companies.”

This “grassroots movement,” the Chamber of Commerce says, will “advocate the preferred pharmacare model with federal, provincial/territorial and municipal leaders” and “focus on targeting key policymakers in Ottawa.”

The “National Pharmacare Working Group” that shaped the plan was sponsored by some of the biggest  pharmaceutical and insurance companies in the world.


Those sponsors stand in stark contrast that with 150 Canadian organizations representing o health professionals, policy experts, labour unions and civil society groups pushing for a universal single-payer pharmacare system.

In fact, some of the Chamber of Commerce’s sponsors have lobbied extensively against introducing a single-payer system.

Sun Life, a Canadian insurance company, stated in a brochure last year that it was opposed to the single-payer pharmacare model.

In 2018, Manulife claimed in its submission to the federal government’s pharmacare advisory panel that “the implementation of a single payer national pharmacare plan would be an extremely challenging endeavor.”

Other multinational pharmaceutical corporations backing the plan have spotty records putting profits ahead of the public interest:

  • AstraZeneca, a multinational pharmaceutical company, has been mired in past controversies relating to illegal drug marketing and being accused of undertaking dangerous drug research.
  • Johnson & Johnson, a multinational pharmaceutical giant, was accused of contributing to the opioid crisis by oversupplying highly addictive painkillers.
  • Pfizer, another pharmaceutical giant, recently failed to share valuable information about a new drug that could be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

Despite the Chamber of Commerce’s attempt to portray itself as the “grassroots” voice of business people rather than the voice of big pharmaceutical and insurance companies, universal pharmacare would actually be very good for business.

The federal government’s own expert panel found a universal, single-payer system would save businesses $750 per year per employee. It would particularly help small businesses and start-ups currently unable to afford employee drug coverage.

According to the Canadian Health Coalition, universal pharmacare would not only remove financial burdens from businesses, but it would also boost productivity and result in fewer sick days:

“Fair and efficient public drug coverage will also increase our country’s productivity and competitiveness. It will relieve employers of the financial burden of providing coverage and allow them to focus on their business operations. A healthier population would also mean less time away from work.”

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