Many older Canadians don’t take drugs as prescribed due to cost: study

An argument for national pharmacare is the number of older Canadians who either don’t fill prescriptions or skip doses because they’re too expensive, a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggests.

“Universal access to necessary medicines is one of the measurable goals of the United Nations drive for universal health coverage in all countries,” wrote the study’s lead author Steve Morgan, a professor in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia. 

“Like citizens of almost all other advanced economies, Canadians receive universal coverage for medically necessary hospital care and physician services. But pharmaceutical coverage in Canada is incomplete, with many patients falling through the cracks of what has been described as a ‘patchwork’ of public and private drug plans in each province and territory.”

Read: Panel calls on feds to create an ‘equitable’ and ‘cost-effective’ national pharmacare system

The study, which analyzed 4,690 Canadians who responded to the 2014 Commonwealth Fund’s International Health Policy Survey of Older Adults, found 8.3 per cent (one in 12) Canadians aged 55 and older reported not taking medication as prescribed because of cost concerns. And Canadians aged 55-64 were three times more likely to report cost-related non-adherence than those 65 and older.
This difference may be due to public drug programs becoming available when Canadians turn 65, the study’s authors note, as well as the “the stabilizing effect of pension incomes on low-income persons” that also come into effect at 65. Similarly, the effect of income played a role in adherence levels for respondents aged 55-64, but not those 65 and older.
Other factors that influence cost-related non-adherence are health status and whether or not respondents have private health insurance.
The results were similar across provinces except in Quebec, where residents aged 55-64 were half as likely to report cost-related non-adherence as their Ontario counterparts.