Prescription drugs too costly
One in 10 Canadians can’t afford to buy their prescription medications, according to a study published Jan. 16 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
In B.C. the number of those who cannot afford to buy prescription medications is higher, at 17 per cent, or nearly one in six.
Michael Law, PhD, and one of the people at the University of British Columbia who completed the study, said they aren’t able to break down those numbers according to different regions in the province, but the supposition is it is worse in urban areas where the cost of living is high.
“We suspect it is less to do with coverage and more to do with the cost of living in B.C.,” he said.
Not purchasing prescription medications will lead to two possible outcomes, he added. First, people will have more acute health issues if they can’t alleviate the symptoms. Second, their health problems could get worse, which could mean more doctor visits or a hospital stay, all of which will put more strain on medicare and the health care system.
“The response is we need to make drugs more affordable so people are facing less cost,” he said.
If there was a list of drugs covered by medicare, then the government could buy in bulk which would be more cost effective, he said. A public plan could give preferential treatment to generic drug companies, who could be encouraged to compete for the bulk business.
Right now in B.C. generic drug companies can charge 35 per cent of a name brand drug, while in Ontario generic drug companies are held at 25 per cent. Citizens of the province are not only paying more than other Canadians, but also some Americans and people living in countries like New Zealand.
Part of the problem, he said, is complacency.
“If one in 10 people couldn’t afford to see their doctor, can you imagine the outcry?” he asked. “But we’ve become reasonably complacent with drug coverage that is less than optimal.”