Study shows many Canadians borrow money to pay for medicines

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      Almost three-quarters of a million Canadians borrow money to pay for prescription drugs, a UBC study shows.

      The research—conducted by the university's Centre for Health Service and Policy Research (CHSPR) and published on November 20 in CMAJ Open—showed that 2.5 percent of respondents reported borrowing money to pay for prescribed medicines during the previous year.

      That percentage translates into about 731,000 people.

      The paper's lead author, CHSPR research coordinator Ashra Kolhatkar, said in a November 20 media release that this means Canadians might be incurring debt to take their medicines: "We knew that many Canadians cannot afford their prescription drugs. These new findings suggest that many people are going into debt to cover the costs of their prescription medications every year.”

      The study used information from Statistics Canada's 2016 Canadian Community Health Survey. Of the 27,519 survey respondents aged 12 or older, researchers found that those between the ages of 19 and 34 were much more likely (3.5 times) to borrow funds to pay for prescription drugs than were those aged 45 to 54.

      People without private drug insurance had double the incidence of borrowing money than those with such insurance.

      About a third of those who reported borrowing did so for prescriptions costing $200 or less, while about a quarter of the borrowing was for medicines that cost between $200 and $500.

      The study's senior author, Michael Law (Canada Research Chair in Access to Medicine), noted that political assistance might need to be considered in light of the findings. 

      “Some provinces like Ontario and B.C. have implemented new public coverage programs to assist younger and lower-income Canadians who don’t have private drug insurance,” Law said. “Moving forward, we will need to investigate the impacts of these policies and continue to assess where people are falling through the cracks.”

      The data analyzed did not reveal the specific origin of the borrowed money, whether it came from family, banks, credit cards, friends, or other sources.

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