Given that the drug expenditures are influenced by a number of factors, not just drug prices and availability, further work needs to be done nationally to influence utilization. The National Forum on Health is examining the need for greater public funding of drugs to control cost and improve access to appropriate drug therapies. Federal/provincial task forces are examining six pharmaceutical issues: drug prices, utilization, marketing, wastage, research and development activities, and consumer education. Results of these deliberations will help guide policy. One recommendation is for full public funding for medically necessary drugs . The Patent Act, Bill C91, which was enacted in 1993, amended the patent law to eliminate compulsory licensing . It is being reviewed by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry. In this legislation, the public commitment by industry to specific research and development targets in Canada in 1996 was 10% of sales. In 1995, patentees reported research and development expenditures of $632.9 million . Australia is only one of many models of drug policy that Canada can examine. An alternative, such as a combination of drugs and primary health care budgets in a publicly funded system, as is occurring in the United Kingdom, helps with seamless care and budget boundaries.
The Australian centralized federal system for the public funding of pharmaceuticals differs from the Canadian Healthcare system of largely provincial and territorial control with greater private sector involvement. Economic evaluations similar to those required in some Canadian provinces are required for listing of new drugs. As Canadian health care costs continue to rise, policy development, funding and access to appropriate pharmaceuticals will become increasingly important to both private and public funders. As Canadian federal and provincial governments develop strategies to collaborate and cooperate on their policy for optimal use of pharmaceuticals, Australia may provide lessons. The benefits and limitations of the Australian pharmaceutical benefits system can be further explored to provide real life experience from which Canadians can benefit.