Poll reveals landslide support for national pharmacare

by Leo Almazora25 Sep 2019

With federal elections set to occur in a few short weeks, a new poll of adult Canadians has found overwhelming support for the notion of universal access to prescription drugs.

Based on an Environics survey of over 1,500 Canadians over 18 years of age, Heart & Stroke and the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) said that 93% of people in Canada agree on the importance for every person in the country to have equal access to prescription drugs. A slightly lower majority of 88% also said that the responsibility lies with the federal government to ensure it happens.

Mirroring previous studies, the poll found that over the past 12 months, nearly one in four Canadian households (24%) includes an individual who has decided not to fill or renew a prescription, or used other means to stretch out their prescriptions, due to cost. A similar proportion of households include a member who has hesitated to quit or change jobs because they did not want to lose their prescription drug coverage.

“Medications for heart disease and stroke play a critical role in prevention, treatment and recovery, and represent more than any other category of drug dispensed in Canada,” said Yves Savoie, CEO, Heart & Stroke. “It is vital that every person – regardless of income, age or where they live in Canada – is able to take the medications they need.”

Nearly nine in 10 Canadians (88%) expressed support for a national pharmacare program that delivers equal access to prescription drugs, regardless of income. Thirty-five per cent said they have experienced household budgetary stress due to prescription drug costs, while 21% of those with drug coverage said they had to pay out-of-pocket to cover part of the cost of a prescription, which they found difficult to afford.

“Our polling indicates that almost 90% of Canadians support a universal national pharmacare program, confirming what nurses know from our experience – pharmacare is a burning issue for a great many people in Canada," added CFNU President Linda Silas. “We believe this support from Canadians should be taken into account during the federal election discussion on pharmacare.”

The poll also found that affordability and access issues tend to differ across demographic lines. Relative to men, fewer women reported having employer health benefits, and women were more likely to report non-adherence to medication due to costs. Non-adherence was also more prevalent among Indigenous people, those between 18 and 44 years old, lower-income individuals, and those with a lower state of health.