Media Release

National poll finds nearly 1 in 4 people in Canada report measures such as skipping doses, splitting pills, not filling prescriptions due to cost


Heart & Stroke and the Canadian Cancer Society are calling on the federal government to introduce national pharmacare now, as a new national poll conducted by Leger finds nearly one-quarter of Canadians (22%) have reported splitting pills, skipping doses, or deciding not to fill or renew a prescription due to cost. The polling also found that 1 in 10 Canadians (10%) with chronic conditions have ended up in the emergency room due to worsening health because they were unable to afford prescription medications.

“Too many loved ones are carrying a heart-wrenching secret: they can’t afford to pay for critical prescriptions,” says Doug Roth, Heart & Stroke CEO. “It may not be you today, but if you know four people, there’s a strong chance you know someone who is making risky tradeoffs because they don’t have prescription drug coverage. It’s time for the federal government to step up and change that with national pharmacare.”

The poll, commissioned by Heart & Stroke and the Canadian Cancer Society, found that 1 in 5 people in Canada don’t have enough coverage (16%), with more than 1 in 4 (27%) finding it difficult to afford the cost of prescriptions. More than 1 in 4 (28%) have had to make difficult choices to afford prescription drugs such as cutting back groceries, delaying rent, mortgage, or utility bills and incurring debt.

“Having to pay for lifesaving prescription medication, on top of all the other out-of-pocket costs that come with a cancer diagnosis, places a burden on people that many cannot afford,” says Andrea Seale, Canadian Cancer Society CEO. “No one should have to forgo the medicines they need because they can’t personally afford them.”

The poll also revealed that 8 in 10 people (82%) agreed the federal government has a responsibility to ensure there is prescription drug coverage for all people living in Canada.

The federal government’s 2019 Hoskins Report on pharmacare noted that 7.5 million people in Canada either don’t have any prescription drug insurance or do not have sufficient drug coverage.   

The Canadian Cancer Society and Heart & Stroke are asking the federal government to introduce pharmacare legislation as soon as possible, recommending a phased-in approach, with coverage of lifesaving, essential prescription drugs first, as recommended by the Hoskins Report on pharmacare.    

Universal coverage of essential drugs would save the healthcare system an average of $1,488 per patient per year by preventing unexpected trips to the hospital.

“We're advocating for this fiscally responsible option which will reduce pressure on the healthcare system, including by cutting costs,” says Roth. “You cannot put a price on a life. But if we put it in terms of dollars and cents alone, controlling a condition such as high blood pressure with key prescription medications is more cost effective than the specialized care required for more serious health consequences such as a stroke or heart attack because someone could not afford their medication.”

This would cut costs by containing drug prices, increasing buying and negotiating power, and reducing administration.  

"With cancer drugs becoming increasingly more expensive because of specialized treatment, we need to ensure that people can afford the medications they need when diagnosed with cancer,” says Seale. “We look forward to working with the federal government to ensure the pharmacare bill is introduced by March 1 as promised – this is a key step toward ensuring that all people in Canada have equitable access to prescription medicines they need.” 

About the Canadian Cancer Society 
The Canadian Cancer Society works tirelessly to save and improve lives. We fund the brightest minds in cancer research. We provide a compassionate support system for all those affected by cancer, across Canada and for all types of cancer. As the voice for people who care about cancer, we work with governments to shape a healthier society. No other organization does all that we do to make lives better today and transform the future of cancer forever. Help us make a difference. Call 1-888-939-3333 or visit today.  

About Heart & Stroke
Life. We don’t want you to miss it. That’s why Heart & Stroke has been leading the fight to beat heart disease and stroke for more than 70 years. We must generate the next medical breakthroughs, so Canadians don’t miss out on precious moments. Together, with the generous support of our donors, partners, and volunteers, we are working to prevent disease, save lives and promote recovery through research, health promotion and public policy. @heartandstroke

About the Study 
Heart & Stroke and the Canadian Cancer Society commissioned Leger to conduct an online survey among 2048 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, via Leger’s online panel, LEO. The data was collected from January 24 to 29, 2024. No margin of error can be associated with a non-probability sample (i.e. a web panel in this case). For comparative purposes, though, a probability sample of 2048 respondents would have a margin of error of ±2.2%, 19 times out of 20.

Contact Information

Michelle Bilton
(437) 266-2493 Ext. 23128 

Natalie Lian
(416) 386-4708