Older Canadians forgo meds due to costs, compromising their health

According to new UBC research one in 12 Canadians aged 55 and older skipped their prescriptions due to cost in 2014. This number was the second highest rate among comparable countries.

“When patients stop filling their prescriptions, their conditions get worse and they often end up in hospital requiring more care which in the long run costs us more money,” said Steve Morgan, senior author of the study and professor in UBC’s school of population and public health.

Steve Morgan

Steve Morgan (Photo courtesy of: UBC)

The research used the 2014 commonwealth fund International health Policy Survey of Older Adults (people aged 55 years or older) in 11 high income countries. The countries in the study included: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Canada is the only country without coverage for prescription medications among countries with publicly funded health-care systems.

In a separate analysis of the Canadian survey responses, researchers revealed Canadians aged 55 to 64 were the ones subject to the greatest barriers to filling their prescriptions. Among them one in eight reported not filling their prescriptions due to costs in 2014. However, this was in comparison to Canadians aged 65 and older out of which one in 20 filled their prescription. This gap was due to the eligibility of older Canadians for comprehensive public drug coverage in many provinces.

Morgan says this gap in drug coverage among Canadians imposes a problem. He said unlike the universal public health care in other countries, public drug plans in Canada cover only a select group. This group consists of social assistance recipients, and people over the age of 65. Other canadians may have drug coverage from private insurance through their workplaces or none at all.

The survey revealed Canadians  without insurance were twice as likely to not fill prescriptions due to the cost. It also showed low-income Canadians were three times more likely than high income respondents to not fill prescription medicine due to financial barriers.

Morgan said the 2014 findings were the same as were a decade ago. This consistency shows that affordability of prescription drugs is still a public health issue in Canada.

“Our problem hasn’t gone away. Financial barriers to prescription drugs are still high, both in absolute terms and relative to our peer countries.”

(Photo courtesy of: UBC)

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