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This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

OTC DRUG COVERAGE IS INCLUDED IN MOST CANADIAN PRIVATE HEALTH BENEFITS, Jane Fulton, PhD, associate professor of strategic management and health policy at the University of Ottawa, pointed out at the Nonprescription Drug Manufacturers Association annual meeting in Naples, Fla. on March 6. Responding to criticisms of Canada's single-payer health care system at a March 6 panel discussion called "Health Care Reform: Cost vs. Quality," Fulton noted that most Canadians purchase health insurance privately to provide coverage for pharmaceuticals, and that those plans generally include OTCs. "Sixty-five percent of Canadians have private health insurance," Fulton commented. "It's for our drug benefit plans and private rooms." "Almost all Canadians are covered for free drug benefits, and that includes OTC products," Fulton said. "Our drug benefit plans are a mix of pharmaceutical products and nonprescription products that benefit the health of the consumer," she added. "We think that's a very reasonable thing to cover . . . it improves their health." Fulton noted that she has been asked to participate in the health care reform task groups assembled by Hillary Clinton. An academic, a health care consultant for 20 years, and a knowledgeable advocate of the Canadian health care system, Fulton is indicative of the kind of expert whose advice is being sought by the Clinton Administration as it prepares its health care reform package. Her comments on OTC coverage in Canada reflect the kinds of ideas being forwarded to the Clinton task force. At least one trade group in the drug business, the National Wholesale Druggists Association, is already on the record for advocating that "all pharmaceutical products . . . be covered" in any pharmaceutical benefits package. In a position statement released in February, NWDA declared that "all components of a proper course of therapy should be covered. This includes not only prescription drugs, but, when deemed necessary by the health care practitioner, over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and medical appliances as well." The NWDA statement adds: "All of these products, when utilized under the proper advisement of the health care practitioner, are essential to the health and well-being of the public."

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