Prescription Use Among Canadians: Nanos Survey

Posted on November 23, 2017

There has been an ongoing public debate as to why many Canadians are not taking their medications as prescribed. Often, it is argued that non-adherence can be attributed to cost. The 10% figure that is frequently quoted publicly supporting this argument has become one of the main justifications for national pharmacare. A review of the literature reveals that much of the data around that question is outdated or uses limited survey questions.

Earlier this year, Innovative Medicines Canada and the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association retained Nanos Research to conduct one of the largest national surveys of Canadians about their use of and behaviours surrounding prescription medicine use.

The objective of the research was to better estimate the number of Canadians who are uninsured or underinsured, and whether that has impacted their behaviours in terms of their prescription medicine use. The research also sought to explore how often Canadians do not take prescription medication(s) as prescribed, and the relationship between that behaviour and the cost of the medication(s).

The survey reached 4,445 Canadians.

Key Findings

  • 80% of respondents report having received a prescription in the past six months
  • 93% of Canadians who reported having received a prescription in the past six months also reported that it was taken as prescribed
  • 7% of respondents who report being given a prescription in the last six months did not take it as prescribed

Of those respondents who reported they did not take their medication as prescribed, the main reasons provided were:

  • 33% say they no longer needed it
  • 23% reported side effects, an allergic reaction or the medication being too strong
  • 7% forgot to take it
  • Nearly six out of ten respondents who report having received a prescription in the last six months and not taking it as prescribed were either not aware (54%) or unsure (3%) of public drug programs to help pay for prescription drugs
  • 7% indicated the medication was too expensive or they couldn’t afford it.

These results indicate that less than 1% of respondents who received a prescription in the last six months did not take the medication(s) as prescribed due to cost.  Innovative Medicines Canada is pleased to be taking a leadership role on better understanding Canada’s medication use. The findings of this report will help create further dialogue as we work to engage governments on finding solutions to Canada’s vulnerable populations.

Download the full report.

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