U of T Researcher: Can Free Prescriptions Save Health Dollars?

Aug 8, 2017
Francoise Makanda

Could a publicly-funded pharmacare program improve health while saving money? An ongoing project led by Dr. Nav Persaud, assistant professor at the University of Toronto Department of Family and Community Medicine (DFCM) and researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital, is hoping to answer this question over the next year.

Assistant Professor Nav PersaudAssistant Professor Nav Persaud

“I see it every day with patients who have diabetes that is not well controlled because they can’t afford their medication,” says Persaud. “Their health care visit is publicly funded but that is a waste because they can’t afford the treatments they need.”

Patients were recruited from primary care sites like St. Michael’s and, others outside Toronto. Eligible participants self-reported having trouble paying for medications in the last twelve months. They are  receiving free medicines to assess the likelihood that they take the treatments as prescribed and to assess the impact on their health.

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

Canada is one of the few countries in the developed world that offers universal health care 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 health care system like all the other developed countries,” says Persaud. “That approach seems to be better and more efficient than the patchwork system we have it right now.”

The project was funded by St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation, CIHR and Ontario SPOR support unit.


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