Drugs

1 in 10 Canadians Cannot Afford Prescription Drugs

Prescription
Pain relievers are now the largest culprit of overdose deaths in the United States. Flickr/David Gioehring

One in ten Canadians cannot afford their prescription drugs, finds an analysis by researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto.

Researchers analyzed data from 5,732 people and found that 9.6 per cent of Canadians who received a prescription reported not filling, failing to refill, or skipping doses for cost reasons, particularly prevalent for those who do not have drug insurance, while 26.5 per cent reporting not being able to afford their prescription drugs.

"Our results clearly demonstrate that cost-related problems in accessing prescription drugs are disproportionately borne by the poor, the sick and the uninsured," said Michael Law, Assistant Professor at UBC's School of Population and Public Health said in a statement on Monday.

"More than one in four Canadians without health insurance are forced, financially, to go without the prescription drugs they need."

The authors noted that prescription drugs fall outside the Canada Health Act, which results in a "patchwork" of drug coverage that leaves two-thirds of Canadian households paying for all or part of their prescription drug costs.

In 2010 "out of pocket" payments for prescription drugs totaled $4.6 billion, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

The study found that those without drug insurance are 4.5 times more likely to avoid taking prescription drugs because of the high costs, while Canadians with low incomes are 3.3 times more likely to avoid taking prescription drugs because they cannot afford them.

"The Canadian most likely to have problems affording their prescription drugs is in poor health, carries no drug insurance, and lives in British Columbia," said Law.

Canadians who reported fair or poor health status did not take their prescribed medications 2.6 times more often than those who reported good or excellent health, explained the authors, and those with chronic conditions were 1.6 times more likely to not take their medications as directed due to cost.

"As the Provincial Premiers meet in Victoria this week, they should consider expanding and improving public coverage for prescription drugs to reduce the influence of cost on whether or not Canadians can afford their prescription drugs."

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