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Clement Urged to Plot a National Pharmaceutical Strategy

The meeting of provincial health ministers to approve a progress report on a national pharmaceutical strategy have stated the need for financial// help of the federal government to cover the burdensome costs of some drugs.

The meeting in Fredericton was planned to be conducted without Federal Health Minister Tony Clement. The federal Conservatives, reluctant to give any more than what was agreed upon two years ago, is giving no indication of help to pay for the initiative.

According to Robin Walsh, a spokesman for Mr. Clement, the meeting is for the provinces and territories "and the minister will be joining for part of it by teleconference." Manitoba Health Minister Tim Sale said, "We're a little disappointed that Minister Clement has chosen not to come, he agreed to this meeting in Toronto when we met in May." In September of 2004, the premiers and Paul Martin, the then Liberal prime minister, agreed to a deal that would transfer an additional $41-billion to the provinces over 10 years. As part of that accord, the first ministers established a national task force that was charged with developing and implementing a national pharmaceuticals strategy.

The task force was told to report on June 30 of this year. They were asked to look at several issues, including finding ways to accelerate the approval of breakthrough drugs, the development of a common list of medications covered in all jurisdictions, strengthening the evaluation of pharmaceutical safety and effectiveness, and obtaining the best prices.

Their primary goal was to ensure that all Canadians have coverage for catastrophic drugs which are certain expensive medications that could create financial hardship. While most provinces have found ways to pay those costs, the Atlantic jurisdictions have not.

While the deadline for the task force report passed last Friday, the provincial health ministers have finally agreed to meet to get it approved.

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