No one should have to choose between keeping their family home and paying for life-saving drugs

As part of its national campaign for universal pharmacare, the Canadian Labour Congress has launched a powerful new video telling the story of Judy Pope, a Cambridge, Ontario woman forced to make an impossible choice: pay for medication that would prolong her life, or keep her family’s finances and home intact.

A cancer-fighting medication had kept Judy Pope alive for five years, but when her husband Gary’s health insurance switched to a new provider, a cap on coverage meant the Popes were faced with medication costs of more than $3,000 a month.

Judy Pope’s painful choice is chronicled in a new CLC video launched online on November 16. The video is meant to encourage Canadians to share the Popes’ story and to add their voice to an online petition that has so far garnered thousands of signatures from across Canada.

“Canadians know it is simply unacceptable that anyone should have to choose between bankrupting their family and saying no to a life-saving drug,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff. “It’s time our governments took action.”

Canada is the only developed country in the world with a universal health care program that doesn’t include a universal prescription drug plan. Our patchwork prescription drug system is inefficient and expensive, and has resulted in the second highest prescription drug costs in the world next to the United States.

Today, 3.5 million Canadians can’t afford to fill their prescriptions. For many, that has meant serious consequences for their health. And for some, like Judy Pope, it has meant giving up the chance at a longer life.

  • About one third of working Canadians don't have employer-funded prescription drug coverage.
  • The less someone earns at work, the less likely they are to have prescription drug coverage.
  • Women and young workers are less likely to have the coverage they need.
  • Half of Canadians worry that some day they’ll have trouble paying for medication they need. That includes almost half of those with prescription drug coverage today.

“Canada’s unions are proud that we’ve won health insurance coverage for many of our members, but we believe anyone with a health card should have coverage for the medication they need,” said Yussuff.

“That’s why we’re working to win a universal prescription drug plan that covers everyone in Canada, regardless of their income, age, or where they work or live,” he added.