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One in 10 can't afford prescriptions
As premiers from around the country gather in Victoria to discuss health care, a new study from the University of B.C. finds that one in 10 Canadians can't afford their prescription medication.
According to the UBC researchers, two-thirds of the population pays for prescription drugs out-of-pocket, to the tune of $4.6 billion in 2010.
"I think for the vast majority of Canadians who have drug plans, almost all require them to pay at least a part of the cost of the prescription drugs they receive," UBC's Michael Law said. "So that puts prescription drugs on the table in terms of trading off."
He said this leads some people to decide the cost of the medication is more than they can afford. When people decide not to take their prescription drugs, it sets off the possibility they are putting themselves at further risk of illness, putting a potentially higher burden on the health care system.
The researchers found uninsured low-income people had a 35-per-cent chance of not paying for medications, compared with less than four per cent of high-income insured people.
"It's a small portion of the population, but it's an important one. It's the people who you'd most expect to be affected by cost," Law said.
Law said the best way to ensure people take prescribed drugs is to lower or eliminate the cost of them, a topic often avoided in the national discussion about medicare.
Among the other findings in the study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, people in B.C. are the least likely to take prescribed drugs, at a rate of nearly one-in-five (17 per cent)