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Costs are a factor in filling prescriptions for older Canadians: UBC study

Randy Shore, Postmedia Network

Pharmacist Dina Ghali fills prescriptions for a client at Main Drug Mart in Toronto, Friday afternoon, April 16, 2010. For weekend feature on generic-drug/ pharmacy controversy. (Aaron Lynett /Postmedia Network)

Pharmacist Dina Ghali fills prescriptions for a client at Main Drug Mart in Toronto, Friday afternoon, April 16, 2010. For weekend feature on generic-drug/ pharmacy controversy. (Aaron Lynett /Postmedia Network)

Canadians are the second most likely to skip a drug prescription among residents of wealthy nations, according to research from the University of British Columbia.

Data from an international survey found that one in 12 Canadians did not fill a drug prescription because of the cost, said Steve Morgan, senior author of the study and professor in UBC’s school of population and public health.

The 2014 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey of Older Adults collected data from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. The study was published in the journals BMJ Open and CMAJ Open.

"When it comes to accessing medicines, Canada is the second worst health care system of the 11 comparable systems we looked at," he said.

Canadians fared the worst among the 10 nations that have universal health care. In the United States — the only surveyed country without a publicly-funded system — one in six people reported skipping medication because of financial barriers.

"We have a considerable rate ... of people choosing not to fill prescriptions at all or choosing to modify the way they take their medicine so they stretch their prescriptions out longer," he said.

A separate analysis of the Canadian data found that those aged 55 to 64 face the most significant barriers to filling prescriptions and that one in eight skipped filling a prescription for that reason. That drops to one in 20 at age 65 when public coverage for drugs kicks in in many provinces.

B.C. has discontinued age-based prescription coverage, instead of offering Fair Pharmacare coverage based on income. Detailed data for B.C. was not available.

“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 Morgan.

rshore@postmedia.com