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19-01-2012 | Legal medicine | Article

One in 10 Canadians cannot afford prescribed medication


Free abstract

MedWire News: One in 10 Canadians say they are unable to afford their prescription medications, shows research.

According to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, cost-related nonadherence occurred in 9.6% of the 5732 Canadians who responded to a large national survey, the 2007 Canada Community Health Survey.

"Two-thirds of Canadian households incur out-of-pocket expenses for prescription drugs each year," say Michael Law (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada) and colleagues.

"These payments totaled [CA] $ 4.6 billion in 2010, or about 17.5% of total spending on prescription drugs. One concern over these substantial out-of-pocket contributions is patients not adhering to necessary medications (ie, they may not fill prescriptions, or they might skip doses)."

The researchers found that poor health, lower income, no drug insurance, and living in British Columbia were factors associated with increased likelihood of cost-related nonadherence.

Based on these figures they calculated the predicted rates of cost-related nonadherence, which ranged from 3.6% among those with high incomes and drug insurance to 35.6% among people with low incomes and no insurance.

The researchers say that their results are consistent with similar studies in the USA.

Additionally, they say that the high rate of cost-related nonadherence in British Columbia was unexpected. "This finding might result from that province's high deductible drug plan or the high level of personal debt among its residents," they write.

The study sample was not large enough to permit subgroup analyses such as for people with specific chronic conditions.

"Our results suggest that these [prescription drug] costs lead many Canadians to not adhere to their prescription medications, particularly people with low incomes, people with illnesses or people who do not have insurance," conclude Law and team.

"Reducing cost-related nonadherence would likely improve health and reduce spending in other areas, such as admissions to hospital for acute care."

They suggest one particular area worth targeting: "Of all the factors we found to be associated with cost-related nonadherence, insurance coverage is the most amenable to being addressed through changes in public policy."

By Chloe McIvor

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