OTTAWA -- The federal Liberals will appoint a group of advisers to explore options for a national program to cover the costs of prescription drugs -- and are already making it easier to cover the cost of cannabis-based pharmaceuticals.

The next year will see former Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins head up an advisory council to come up with options on how to create a national pharmacare program -- a program that the parliamentary budget watchdog has warned could cost $19 billion a year.


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    The council gives the government a year to study the idea, which has been a key talking point for NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh -- fuelling speculation that the Liberals plan to make pharmacare a centrepiece of its 2019 election campaign.

    In the meantime, the Liberals say they won't apply new sales taxes to cannabis-based pharmaceutical products that can be obtained with a prescription.

    Nor will taxes be applied to oils that contain low amounts of THC, the primary psychoactive element in marijuana, that are used by children with certain medical conditions.

    As well, the government says it plans to look at creating a rebate program to retroactively reimburse patients an unspecified amount for taxes already paid on cannabis-based pharmaceuticals.