Paying for Rent or Medication: A Decision Canadians with Diabetes Should Not Have to Make

Canadian Diabetes Association supports ICES
and St. Michael's Hospital research findings

TORONTO, August 13, 2012 /Canada NewsWire/ - The increasing prevalence of diabetes in Ontario is alarming with approximately 1.2 million Ontarians estimated to be living with the disease. This number is projected to jump to nearly 2 million by 2020. Equally alarming is the cost burden imposed on Ontario by the disease - almost $5 billion in 2010 and projected to be almost $7 billion by 2020. Eighty per cent of these costs are attributed to serious and life-threatening complications from the disease such as cardiovascular disease.

Accordingly, the Canadian Diabetes Association supports findings released today from a study conducted by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, which concludes that access to affordable medications is essential for people with diabetes to manage their disease. This is particularly true for low-income Ontarians with diabetes younger than age 65 to lower their risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease and improve their quality of life. Eighty per cent of Canadians with diabetes die from a heart attack or stroke. The report notes that low socio-economic status (SES) is "a strong predictor of death" for people with diabetes.

Younger, low-income Canadians with diabetes face a heavier financial burden due to their inability to afford private insurance plans and reliance on government diabetes programs for support, which limit public coverage for those younger than age 65. This results in greater out-of-pocket costs if government programs do not cover the required diabetes medications, devices and supplies. The Ontario drug formulary only lists ten of the 25 diabetes drugs approved, two are restricted and 13 are not listed at all. The study notes that "SES disparity in cardiovascular disease burden falls substantially in people with diabetes after age 65, which may be related to universal access to prescription drugs among seniors."

The average out-of-pocket cost for a person with type 2 diabetes in Ontario ranges from almost $2,100 to $2,800 annually depending on a person's income and eligibility for government support according to the Canadian Diabetes Association's report The Burden of Out-of-Pocket Costs for Canadians with Diabetes. It is particularly noteworthy that lower income Ontarians pay almost twice as much in out-of-pocket expenses as a proportion of their income for diabetes medications as those Ontarians with higher incomes. This report also reveals that 57 per cent of Canadians with diabetes do not comply with their prescribed medical therapy, because they simply cannot afford their medications, devices and supplies, compromising how they manage their disease. In a recent poll conducted by the Canadian Medical Association for the 12th Annual National Report Card on Health Care, 24 per cent of those in the lower-income category had either delayed or stopped buying prescription drugs, compared with just 3 per cent of those earning $60,000 or more.

"People with diabetes incur substantial costs to manage their disease. These costs are particularly difficult for low-income Canadians, such as those who do not receive social assistance or those who have high drug costs, but do not qualify for other forms of assistance," said Dr. Janet Hux, Chief Scientific Advisor, Canadian Diabetes Association. "To prevent or delay even more costly and devastating health complications, people with diabetes deserve equal and affordable access to essential medications, supplies and medical devices, regardless of age, income level and where they live in Canada."

Another Association report Diabetes: Canada at the Tipping Point—Charting a New Path found that in addition to low-income Canadians, other populations in Canada carry a heavier diabetes burden such as Aboriginal peoples, immigrants, some ethnocultural communities, and women in these subpopulations. Equal and timely access to medications as clinically appropriate is important for all Canadians, especially for those with chronic diseases such as diabetes and related complications.

"Federal, provincial and territorial governments should commit to a strategy to enhance pharmacare coverage in Canada such that the cost to an individual for diabetes medication, supplies and medical devices, as well as the costs associated with diabetes-related complications, are not a barrier or a burden to managing the disease. This strategy should include catastrophic drug coverage and a pan-Canadian drug formulary," added Dr. Hux.

About the Canadian Diabetes Association

The Canadian Diabetes Association is a registered charitable organization, leading the fight against diabetes by helping people with diabetes live healthy lives while we work to find a cure.

Our professional staff and more than 20,000 volunteers provide education and services to help people in their daily fight against the disease, advocate on behalf of people with diabetes for the opportunity to achieve their highest quality of life, and break ground towards a cure. Please visit diabetes.ca, join us on facebook.com/CanadianDiabetesAssociation, follow us on Twitter @DiabetesAssoc, or call 1-800-BANTING (226-8464).