Frequently Asked Questions

What is a citizens’ reference panel?
Reference panels have been used across Canada to provide detailed guidance to governments and decision-makers concerning complex public policies. They are typically made up of 28-36 randomly selected participants who collectively represent a range of perspectives as well as the demographic profile of a specific jurisdiction. Participation is voluntary. 

Working with a team of independent facilitators, members of a reference panel learn about an important public issue.  They hear from experts, stakeholders, and other citizens as they work towards a consensus concerning their priorities. Reference panels issue detailed public reports that explain their work and make recommendations for use by governments and other public authorities.

Why is this reference panel taking place?
Medicines in hospitals are covered by Canada’s universal Medicare system, but coverage for prescription drugs used outside hospitals varies considerably across Canadian provinces and territories. This makes prescriptions difficult for many Canadians to afford.

Policy makers are aware of the challenges. Individually and collaboratively, Canada’s federal, provincial, and territorial governments are looking into options to help make prescription drugs more accessible, affordable, and appropriately prescribed. 

The Citizens’ Reference Panel on Pharmacare in Canada will review provincial and federal policies concerning drug coverage and consider whether different models would better suit the needs of Canadians. The Panel’s recommendations will help policy makers working to strike the right balance.

Will the Citizens’ Reference Panel on Pharmacare in Canada make an impact?
Yes. The Panel will issue a public report containing its recommendations, which will be shared with the federal health minister and her provincial and territorial counterparts, as well as other researchers and stakeholders. There is growing interest by governments across Canada in adopting some form of universal prescription drug coverage. The panel’s recommendations will be a welcome and useful contribution to ongoing work by governments to strengthen pharmaceutical coverage.

How will the independence and neutrality of the process be insured?
The integrity of this process is essential to its success. The Panel is managed by an independent team of facilitators and is overseen by a committee of leading academics, physicians, and policy leaders from across Canada. For more information about the facilitation team and the Advisory and Oversight committee, please visit our website.

Who is funding the Panel?
The Panel is funded primarily by a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, a federally funded research agency which provides more than $900 million in peer-reviewed grants each year to advance medical research and health policy. Additional contributions to this project have been provided by the Mindset Social Innovation Foundation; Pharmaceutical Policy Research Collaboration, University of British Columbia; the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto; the Institutes of Health Services and Policy Research, Canadian Institutes of Health Research; the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research; and Women’s College Hospital.

But I’m not an expert or familiar with prescription drugs or health care spending, can I still participate?
Absolutely! We do not expect you to have any specialized knowledge. Whether you are new to Canada or a longtime resident or citizen, your perspective and experiences are what matter most. Each member will have enough time to learn everything they need to know to make an informed contribution to the work of the Panel. 

I have private drug coverage. Can I still participate?
Yes. Anyone who receives this letter is encouraged to participate regardless of whether you use prescription medications or benefit from private or public insurance programs.

What can I expect when I arrive in Ottawa?
Each Panelist will be lodged in a standard private room in a downtown Ottawa hotel. All meals during your stay in Ottawa will be provided. The Panel will meet each day from 9 am to 4 pm and 6 pm to 8:30 pm. The opening dinner on Wednesday, October 19 will be your first opportunity to meet your colleagues on the panel and to begin exploring the issues related to the panel’s mandate. 

What will I do as a Panelist?
As a Panelist you will first hear from leading experts and policy makers from across Canada. These presentations will include many opportunities for questions and discussions. Following these presentations, the panel will work through a series of small group discussions, first evaluating then gradually reaching an agreement on the best actions and recommendations for prescription drug coverage in Canada. 

Why did I receive this letter?
Your household is one of 10,000 across Canada randomly selected by Canada Post to receive this special invitation. This invitation is open to anyone aged 18 or older who lives at this address. 

Who is eligible to serve on the Panel?
To be a member of the Panel you must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, aged 18 or older. Only one person per household may volunteer to serve on the panel. Elected representatives as well as employees of provincial and federal health agencies working actively on pharmaceutical policies, or individuals employed by pharmaceutical companies or health insurers are ineligible to participate. If you are concerned about a potential conflict-of-interest, please call our toll-free line.

Do I need to be a Canadian citizen to volunteer?
No. Any permanent resident or Canadian citizen who receives this letter is encouraged to volunteer. 

I am unsure I can attend all days of the Panel. Can I still apply?
Unfortunately, no. All panel members must be in Ottawa for the duration of the panel. In most cases, this will require traveling on Wednesday, October 19th. In a few special cases, some panel members may need to travel a day earlier to arrive in Ottawa on time. Panel members will return home on Sunday, October 23rd. 

How do I become a member of the Panel?
First you must respond to this invitation letter no later than Friday, September 23rd by calling 1-844-534-9993, registering securely online, or by mailing the enclosed response card. 

On Wednesday, September 28th, a special draw will be conducted to randomly select the members of the Panel from among the respondents to this letter. 

How will members of the Panel be selected?
Members will be chosen by randomly selecting names from among the pool of volunteers who respond to this letter. We will make sure the panel reflects Canada’s diversity, with equal representation of both men and women, as well as people of all ages, and residents of different regions. The Panel will also include at least two Indigenous members. 

Which languages will be used during the Panel?
The Panel will work in both English and French. Simultaneous translation will be provided during plenary sessions. We will also have bilingual staff on hand at all times to help with translation as needed. 

Will I get paid to serve on the Panel? 
We are asking you to donate your time and volunteer as a member of the panel. We will cover all travel, meal and accommodation costs. We can also provide subsidies for childcare and eldercare if requested. However, we do not provide an honorarium to members. 

Will you compensate me for lost wages?
No. The Panel is unable to compensate for lost wages. However, if you are randomly selected to serve on the Panel and face particular financial hardship that would prevent you from participating, we can provide a modest stipend. 

Is there a cost to participate? 
No. We appreciate that this is a surprising invitation to receive and that you may be skeptical and looking for a catch. We encourage you to discuss any concerns with the Panel organizers by calling the toll-free line or visiting our website. If you are selected to participate, the initiative will pay the full cost of travel, accommodation and meals, and any reasonable out-of-pocket expenses. You will never be asked for a credit card number or any other form of payment. Participation on a Reference Panel is a matter of public service. We will work to support you in making an effective contribution to the process.

I have never travelled before. What assistance can I receive?
We appreciate that some volunteers may not have travelled and we are committed to making the process of travel to Ottawa as easy, comfortable, and safe as possible. Prior to your departure, Panel staff will carefully review your itinerary with you and make sure all your questions are answered. In the lead-up to your travel, Panel staff will be available by phone 24/7 to provide support as needed. We will also have staff on hand to meet you on arrival in Ottawa. 

I’m concerned about a possible barrier to participating. What should I do?
We are committed to assisting any eligible resident who is selected to participate successfully. If you would like to be a member of the panel but are concerned about a potential barrier to participating, please call us at 1-844-534-9993 and a panel coordinator will be happy to discuss how that barrier might be overcome. 

If I do not get chosen for the Panel, can I still be involved?
Yes. We will send periodic updates about the process to all candidates.