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Supporting national pharmacare in Canada

Prostate Cancer Canada supports a national pharmacare program so those with prostate cancer have timely and fair access to medications – regardless of where they live or their financial situation.

We want all men diagnosed with prostate cancer to have publicly-funded coverage for prescription medications that are obtained outside hospitals because many medications can be taken at home. However, the cost of these treatments is not always covered by provincial plans, unlike medications received in a hospital. As a result, many Canadians, including those with prostate cancer, are at risk of not being able to afford vital prescription medications.

The facts

  • Canada is the only country with a publicly-funded health care system that does not have a national program for prescription medications dispensed outside hospital
  • Canadian provinces and territories decide individually if and how they provide medication coverage for out-of-hospital prescriptions. As a result, drug programs are inconsistent. They have different lists of medications that are often restricted to certain groups, such as those with low income or who are over 65 years of age
  • About 10 per cent of Canadians do not take their medications as prescribed because the cost is too high
  • In 2017, 11 per cent of all Canadian drug spending was on cancer medication. The cost of out-of-hospital medications for cancer increased from $106 million in 2005 to $190 million in 2012
  • Out-of-hospital drugs for advanced prostate cancer can range from $4,000-$21,000 in the year following diagnosis. Men with prostate cancer must rely on private insurance provided through their employers, insurance plans provided by provinces and territories, or pay for  medications themselves


Pharmacare must ensure that Canadians with prostate cancer have equal access to medications wherever they live. Currently, access is unequal. Different provinces and territories cover different drugs.
The national pharmacare list should include medications that treat prostate cancer, its symptoms, as well as the side effects of treatment, including: pain, erectile dysfunction, decreased sex drive (libido), incontinence, loss of muscle mass, loss of bone mass, and poor mental health.

Equal access to care and diagnostic tools

In addition to pharmacare, governments must ensure equal access to medical care and diagnostic tools to prevent ongoing prostate cancer deaths. Men cannot be treated for prostate cancer if they are not diagnosed. Increasing access to the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test by ensuring it is publicly funded across the country in the same way (currently Ontario and British Columbia do not fund it), may increase the number of men who are diagnosed earlier and will lead to better health outcomes.

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