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CMAJ. 2012 Feb 21;184(3):297-302. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.111270. Epub 2012 Jan 16.

The effect of cost on adherence to prescription medications in Canada.

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  • 1The Centre for Health Services and Policy Research, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.



Many patients do not adhere to treatment because they cannot afford their prescription medications, putting them at increased risk of adverse health outcomes. We determined the prevalence of cost-related nonadherence and investigated its associated characteristics, including whether a person has drug insurance.


Using data from the 2007 Canada Community Health Survey, we analyzed the responses of 5732 people who answered questions about cost-related nonadherence to treatment. We determined the national prevalence of cost-related nonadherence and used logistic regression to evaluate the association between cost-related nonadherence and a series of demographic and socioeconomic variables, including province of residence, age, sex, household income, health status and having drug insurance.


Cost-related nonadherence was reported by 9.6% (95% confidence interval [CI] 8.5%-10.6%) of Canadians who had received a prescription in the past year. In our adjusted model, we found that people in poor health (odds ratio [OR] 2.64, 95% CI 1.77-3.94), those with lower income (OR 3.29, 95% CI 2.03-5.33), those without drug insurance (OR 4.52, 95% CI 3.29-6.20) and those who live in British Columbia (OR 2.56, 95% CI 1.49-4.42) were more likely to report cost-related nonadherence. Predicted rates of cost-related nonadherence ranged from 3.6% (95% CI 2.4-4.5) among people with insurance and high household incomes to 35.6% (95% CI 26.1%-44.9%) among people with no insurance and low household incomes.


About 1 in 10 Canadians who receive a prescription report cost-related nonadherence. The variability in insurance coverage for prescription medications appears to be a key reason behind this phenomenon.

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