Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

Cost stops one in 10 Canadians from taking prescribed medicines: study

British Columbians are more likely than other Canadians to cite cost as the reason they've failed to take a medicine they've been prescribed, says a report by UBC researchers.

"We found that several patient characteristics are associated with cost-related non-adherence," said the report published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal today. "Not having insurance coverage for prescription drugs, being in poor health, having a low household income, being under the age of 65 years and living in British Columbia."

Researchers from the University of British Columbia's Centre for Health Services and Policy Research, Michael Law, Lucy Cheng, Irfan Dhalla, Deborah Heard and Steven Morgan, wrote the study "The effect of cost on adherence to prescription medications in Canada" using data from Statistics Canada's 2007 Community Health Survey.

They found that on average one in 10 of the Canadians surveyed said that due to cost they had failed to fill a prescription or not taken a drug in the year before the survey. The number was nearly one in five for people in B.C. and one out of four for people without drug insurance.

The cost of drugs is something governments have a lot of control over, said Law in an interview. "Drugs have really become a core component of the treatment of disease and it's puzzling why they aren't included in medicare," he said. "Prescription drugs are the most glaring omission from medicare today."

The release of the report came as premiers from across Canada meet in Victoria to discuss the future of health care.

Canada has a patchwork of public and private plans that leaves many people uninsured, Law said. When people decide they can't afford their drugs, they may end up sicker and costing the health care system more, he said.

There are also costs to individuals, employers and society as a whole, he said. "Keeping people healthy through the use of these drugs . . . is in everyone's best interest."

"People in B.C., dramatically more than people in other jurisdictions, are not taking the drugs they need because of cost," said New Democratic Party Leader Adrian Dix. "It reflects a good amount of what we've been saying about inequality in the province."

Governments in recent years have set policies that favour pharmaceutical companies over patients, he said.

B.C. Health Minister Mike de Jong was not immediately available.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus