Today, nearly 1 in 4 Canadian households cannot afford to fill their prescriptions. As Canada attempts the alleviate this problem, the question remains: are we on track to solving this drug problem? As of Jan. 1, OHIP+ came into effect, providing free pharmacare to people 24 years old and younger. But what happens when students turn 25 years old, especially those who are pursuing professional or graduate degrees? This problem is only compounded by the fact that Canada continues to have the third-highest drug prices in the world, translating to a heavy financial burden on our public health system.
Ontario's new OHIP+ provides automatic drug coverage for over 4,000 drugs to over four million individuals regardless of family income. However, this coverage does not extend to age groups 25 and over, leaving essential medicines out of reach for many Canadians. This issue is not recent either; the establishment of the 1987 Patent Act increased patent length of new drugs to 20 years. This act extends the time in which a company with a drug monopoly can price gouge, resulting in price inflation. However, universities can play a part in dismantling these drug monopolies by using non-exclusive licensing agreements, which grant multiple companies the right to produce the drug at a lower cost.
Universities are an important source of biomedical research, evidenced by the fact that a large proportion of medical innovation and groundbreaking drugs have originated from federally-funded university laboratories. We, as university students, have a role to play in bridging the gap in access to medicines.
Universities Allied for Essential Medicines is a student-governed organization that advocates for public access to affordable medicine and believes that universities must contribute to global access to medicines. If you want to be part of the solution, you can join UAEM's Western chapter and their Take Back Our Medicines campaign. Help advocate for innovations derived from publicly funded research to remain publicly accessible.
Although we have OHIP+ to cover many of our prescriptions, essential medicines still remain out of reach for many people. Life-saving drugs should not be a luxury. Let's address the drug pricing problem by changing how we license our drugs at the university level, so that all Canadians and people in low and middle-income countries have access to the drugs they need. Support UAEM and the TBOM campaign and take a stand.
— Michael Bridgeraj, second-year medical science; Julia Briggs, second-year medical science