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731,000 Canadians going into debt to buy prescription drugs: UBC

Millennials and those without private coverage were more likely to borrow money

Many Canadians are borrowing money to afford their prescription drugs, a study from the University of B.C. suggests.

The study, published Tuesday in CMAJ Open, found that 2.5 per cent, or 731,000, of Canadians admitted to borrowing money to cover medication costs.

Researchers analyzed data from Statistics Canada’s 2016 Canadian Community Health Survey, which looked at the drug buying habits of 27,519 Canadians.

They found that millennials were 3.5 times more likely to have to borrow money than those between 45 and 54 years old.

People without private drug coverage were twice as likely to need a loan to buy prescription medication.

The study did not differentiate how Canadians borrowed the money, whether it was credit cards, pay day loans or money from friends and family.

One-third of those who borrowed money had to do so for prescriptions costing $200 or less, while a quarter borrowed money for drugs costing between $201 and $500.

“These new findings suggest that many people are going into debt to cover the costs of their prescription medications every year,” said the study’s lead author Ashra Kolhatkar, a research coordinator at UBC’s Centre for Health Service and Policy Research.

“A key finding in our study was that borrowing occurred for all levels of out of pocket costs, and over 60 per cent of borrowing reported by the respondents in the study was for prescriptions that cost $500 or less.”

Michael Law, senior study author and the Canada Research Chair in Access to Medicine, said that a solution needed to be found to allow Canadians to buy drugs debt-free.

READ MORE: Health committee cheers idea of national pharmacare

READ MORE: Watchdog praises changes made so far after B.C.’s health worker misfirings scandal

“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,” said Law.

“Moving forward, we will need to investigate the impacts of these policies and continue to assess where people are falling through the cracks.”


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