Body Count: The Human Cost of Financial Barriers to Prescription Medicines

Body Count: The Human Cost of Financial Barriers to Prescription Medicines, May 2018, ISBN: 978-1-7753845-0-2

28 Pages Posted: 7 May 2019

See all articles by Ruth Lopert

Ruth Lopert

George Washington University - Department of Health Policy; LWC Policy Consulting Inc.

Elizabeth Docteur

Elizabeth Docteur Consulting

Steve Morgan

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Centre for Health Services and Policy Research

Date Written: May 1, 2018

Abstract

In this report – the first of its kind in Canada – we use existing research to assess the impact of inadequate drug coverage on the health and well-being of Canadians. The report finds that hundreds of lives end prematurely each and every year, resulting from the difficulties Canadians experience in paying for their prescription medicines.

To date, there have been no studies that have directly measured the population-level health impacts of Canada’s lack of universal drug coverage. We aimed to bridge that knowledge gap with estimates of the potential scale of the health impacts of inadequate drug coverage in Canada.

We used a variety of indirect approaches, drawing on existing research and focusing on specific cohorts for whom the lack of adequate prescription drug coverage in Canada is likely to have the greatest impact, such as patients with ischemic heart disease and diabetes. Ischemic heart disease is both the leading cause of death and the leading cause of ‘amenable mortality’ – death considered avoidable with appropriate health care – in Canada, accounting for 55% of all such potentially avertable premature deaths. And both ischemic heart disease and diabetes are in the top five conditions causing the most death and disability combined.

In calculating premature deaths that may arise from Canada’s lack of universal drug coverage, we also focused our analysis on working-age Canadians (20-64 years), who don’t qualify for the age-based public drug coverage plans available to older residents in many provinces.

From our analyses, we estimate that hundreds of lives end prematurely each year because of the difficulties many Canadians experience in paying for their prescription medicines. Because there is some overlap among the population groups we studied, our estimates cannot simply be added together to arrive at the total number of lives lost. However, as we did not have the data needed to examine all the population sub-groups likely to be affected, the total number of Canadians suffering the adverse effects of shortfalls in prescription drug coverage is likely to be larger than the ranges we report.

Keywords: pharmaceuticals, coverage, mortality, morbidity

JEL Classification: I113

Suggested Citation

Lopert, Ruth and Docteur, Elizabeth and Morgan, Steve, Body Count: The Human Cost of Financial Barriers to Prescription Medicines (May 1, 2018). Body Count: The Human Cost of Financial Barriers to Prescription Medicines, May 2018, ISBN: 978-1-7753845-0-2, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3368586

Ruth Lopert (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Department of Health Policy ( email )

Washington, DC
United States

LWC Policy Consulting Inc. ( email )

Washington, DC 20005

Elizabeth Docteur

Elizabeth Docteur Consulting ( email )

633 S. Saint Asaph Street
Washington, DC 22314-4118
United States

Steve Morgan

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Centre for Health Services and Policy Research ( email )

201-2206 East Mall
Vancouver, V6T 1Z3
Canada

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