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Meds too costly for many

A new study says Canadians aged 55 and older were the second most likely among comparable countries to stop filling their prescriptions in 2014 because of cost.

The study from the University of British Columbia says one in 12 people in that age group skipped their prescriptions in 2014.

The research draws on data from a 2014 survey of older adults in 11 high-income countries.

The study says among countries that have publicly funded health-care systems, Canada is the only one without coverage for prescription drugs.

The researchers analyzed the survey and found the United States had the highest rate of skipped prescriptions, with 16.8 per cent of respondents deciding not to fill prescriptions.

In most of the other countries, fewer than four per cent of respondents reported skipping prescriptions due to cost.

Canada's rate was 8.3 per cent.

The 10 other countries used in the comparison are Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

A separate analysis found that one in eight Canadians aged 55 to 64 reported that they did not fill prescriptions because of cost in 2014.

One in 20 Canadians aged 65 and older reported not filling prescriptions, and the study says that age group qualifies for public drug coverage in many provinces.

Prof. Steve Morgan, senior author of the study, said gaps in drug coverage are a problem that is costing the health-care system.

"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, who teaches in the school of population and public health.

Morgan said the 2014 findings were consistent with studies that date back a decade.

"Financial barriers to prescription drugs are still high, both in absolute terms and relative to our peer countries."

The university's research was described in two studies published in BMJ Open and CMAJ Open medical journals.



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