Thursday, January 19, 2017

Ensuring Canadians can afford needed medication

Prescription medication is a critical part of a high-quality, patient-centred and cost effective health care system. Canada stands out as being the only country with universal health care that does not have universal pharmaceutical coverage; as a result, all too many Canadians are doing without critical prescription medication due to cost.

Research (pdf file) done by the Angus Reid Institute found that over one in five Canadians (23%) reported that they or someone in their household did not take medication as prescribed because of the cost during the past 12 months.

A significant and increasing number of Canadians are feeling the pressure of prescription drug costs, are unable to afford the medications being prescribed to them, and are compensating by skipping doses, splitting pills, or not filling their prescriptions.

These are among the main findings of a comprehensive public opinion survey conducted in 2015 by the Angus Reid Institute – in partnership with the Mindset Social Innovation Foundation and with the co-operation of renowned health policy researchers in Canada. This national study also finds a large majority of Canadians share the view that "medicine should be part of Medicare", supporting a national Pharmacare system that would cover the cost of prescription drugs.

There is decidedly less consensus on what the program should look like and – especially – how it should be funded. This complete report including detailed tables and methodology can be found at here

Key Findings
      More than one-in-five (23%) report that in the past 12 months they or someone in their household did not take their medicines as prescribed, if at all, because of the cost
      Regionally, BC and Atlantic Canada show the highest levels of access problems (29% and 26% respectively)
      Cost barriers affect Canadians of all ages

Many Canadians cannot afford their prescribed meds Nearly one-quarter (23%) of Canadians report that, in the past 12 months, they or someone in their household did not take their medicines as prescribed, if at all, because of cost. Statistics Canada's Survey of Household Spending reveals that spending on medication by households headed by a senior is the highest among all age groups. Despite provincial/territorial coverage, 12% of senior’s report skipping medication due to cost. Specifically:
      About one-in-seven (14%) reported that they or someone in their household did not fill a prescription at all
      One-in-ten (10%) did not renew a prescription
      And one-in-seven (15%) did things to make a prescription last longer (such as skip doses/split pills/etc.) due to cost. Survey results highlight access barriers in all provinces, with variations that may reflect public coverage policy. For example:
      B.C. has the highest rate of access barriers: 29 per cent don’t take medicines as prescribed, if at all, possibly because government in B.C. offers only “catastrophic” drug coverage
      Atlantic Canada is also relatively high (26%).This too may be because of the limited nature of provincial drug plans in the region Cost barriers affect ages and income levels differently
      All age groups experience some difficulty filling prescription drugs:
      Almost three in ten (28%) adults under age 45 do so. This level was reported even by the youngest group, aged 18 to 24 (27%). This group generally also has lower income and less drug coverage.
      Though older Canadians are less likely to experience access barriers to prescribed medicines, they still report experiencing such barriers at relatively high rates compared to other comparable healthcare systems around the world (2014 Commonwealth Fund International Health Survey pdf file). 

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