News release: New poll reveals overwhelming support for pharmacare

Canadians believe federal government responsible for ensuring universal access to medications

(Ottawa) – According to a new poll conducted jointly by Heart & Stroke and the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU), 93% of people in Canada feel that it’s important for everyone in Canada to have equal access to prescription drugs. The majority – 88% – also believe that it is the responsibility of the federal government to ensure it happens.

The poll shows that the high cost of prescription drugs causes many to risk their health by not taking their medications as prescribed. Nearly one in four Canadian households (24%) has had an individual who decided not to fill or renew a prescription or did something (such as cut a pill in half) to make a prescription last longer due to cost. Additionally, the polling found that one in four households have an individual who has hesitated about quitting or changing jobs to avoid losing 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,” says 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. A national universal program will go a long way in making that happen and not just fill the gaps that the current system has created.”

“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,” says Linda Silas, President of the CFNU. “We believe this support from Canadians should be taken into account during the federal election discussion on pharmacare.”

The poll also revealed more than one-third (35%) of Canadians report the cost of prescription drugs is a stress on their household budget, and that one in five Canadians (21%) with prescription drug coverage still pay part of the cost of prescriptions out of pocket and find the cost difficult to afford.

Studies show that some people face greater barriers to access than others. Fewer women have employer health benefits compared to men, and women are more likely to report non-adherence to medication due to costs. Cost non-adherence is also more common among Indigenous people, those aged 18-44 years, people with lower health status and people with lower incomes.

Federal leadership and implementation of an equitable drug strategy are supported by both Heart & Stroke in its policy statement on pharmacare, and the CFNU in their Pharmacare Consensus Principles endorsed by more than 80 organizations. Both organizations say the poll makes it clear a national universal pharmacare program should be a priority of every major political party in the October federal election. 

Poll highlights
  • 93% of Canadians feel it’s important that everyone in Canada has equal access to prescription drugs.
  • 88% of Canadians agree that the federal government has a responsibility to ensure there is prescription drug coverage for all people living in Canada.
  • 88% of Canadians support a national pharmacare program that provides equal access to prescription drugs – regardless of income – with over one in two (51%) saying they strongly support such a program.
  • Over the past 12 months, nearly one in four Canadians (24%) decided not to fill or renew a prescription, or did something to make a prescription last longer due to its cost
  • One in four Canadians (25%) has an individual in their household who has hesitated about quitting or changing jobs to prevent losing prescription drug coverage.
  • 35% of Canadians have experienced household budgetary stress due to the cost of prescription drugs.
  • One in five Canadians (21%) with drug coverage report that they pay part of the cost of a prescription out of pocket and that those costs are difficult to afford.
  • Environics Research conducted this online poll of 1,500 adult Canadians 18+, August 8-16, 2019. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of 1,500 is +/- 2.6% points, 19 times out of 20.

About Heart & Stroke

Life. We don’t want you to miss it. That’s why Heart and Stroke leads the fight against heart disease and stroke. We must generate the next medical breakthroughs, so Canadians don’t miss out on precious moments. Together, we are working to prevent disease, save lives and promote recovery through research, health promotion and public policy. 

About the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions

We are Canada’s nurses. The CFNU is Canada’s largest nurses’ organization, representing nearly 200,000 nurses and student nurses, and advocating on key health priorities and federal engagement in the future of public health care.

For more information

Joshua Terry
Communications Manager (Ontario), Heart & Stroke
416-489-7111, x. 24806 / 647-444-4391 (mobile)

Ben René
Communications Officer, CFNU
613-406-5962 (mobile)