Health & Wellness

Food or Medication? Many Can’t Afford Both

According to one study, nearly a million Canadians can’t afford their prescription medications


By Katrina Caruso


You may not be surprised to hear that the United States has the world’s most expensive drug prices—but Canada has the second most expensive, and we’re the only country in the world that has universal healthcare but not universal drug coverage. And experts say the cost of prescription drugs is forcing many to go without food or heat, borrow money to buy the meds they’ve been prescribed, or forgo the meds they need.

Research results published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that in 2016, 968,000 Canadians reported that they cut down on paying for necessities in order to pay for their medications. In addition, 8.2% of those prescribed drugs (more than 1.6 million people nationwide) didn’t fill their prescription, split their pills, or skipped doses to cut costs. More than 730,000 people borrowed money to buy their pills.

Those who struggled to afford their prescription medications were largely those without drug insurance, with lower incomes, Indigenous people, and younger Canadians. Women were more likely than men to report difficulties, as were people who had poorer health.

According to the CBC’s Fifth Estate, over the last five years, Canadians spent more than $15 billion on overpriced prescription medications. Experts urge people to ask their doctors or pharmacists for the cheaper alternative or generic brand.

Universal pharmacare is likely to be a national election issue next year. The NDP recently called for it, and the government’s Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare is due to report by June 2019.


Photo: iStock/YinYang.