Ongoing Study on Free Prescription Drugs to Support the Canadian Healthcare System

Aug 4, 2017

Could a publicly-funded pharmacare program save the Canadian economy from the money it loses on healthcare expenditure? An ongoing project led by Dr. Nav Persaud, Assistant professor at the University of Toronto Department of Family and Community Medicine (DFCM) and physician at St. Michael’s, is hoping to answer this question come June 2018.Dr. Nav PersaudDr. Nav Persaud

“I see it every day where I have a patient who has diabetes that is not well controlled. Why is it not controlled? The answer is that they can’t afford their medication,” says Dr. Persaud. “Their healthcare visit is publicly funded and that is a waste. People come in for visits but their symptoms or treatment aren’t going away.”

Patients were recruited at primary care sites like St. Michael’s Hospital and outside of Toronto like Blind River, Ontario. To be eligible, patient must self-report having trouble paying for medications in the last twelve months. Patients who meet the requirement will be given their treatment for free to assess the likelihood that the prescription will be fulfilled. The study is meant to inform policymakers about the ongoing developments with prescription fulfilment in Canada and encourage some change in pharmacare policy. The main results of the study should be tallied in the summer of 2018. The project was funded by St-Michael’s hospital foundation, CIHR and Ontario SPOR support unit.

“We shouldn’t be able to do a study like this in a high-income country like Canada,” he says. “More should be done for Canadians who need to take their medication.”

It is such an important issue that several DFCM physicians have asked to be included in the project says Dr. Persaud. A lot of them are involved in delivering care and see similar patients at their clinic who cannot afford treatment. Canada is one of the few countries in the developed world that offers universal healthcare but does not fund treatment. In Quebec alone, one-third of prescriptions are not filled and non-adherence is greater for treatments that are more expensive.

“I believe that Canadians want a pharmacare program where medication is included in the healthcare system like all the other developed countries. That approach is known to be better and more efficient than the patchwork system we have it right now.”


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