The Canadian Medical Association Journal recently published a report that found those in Canada without drug coverage struggled financially to pay for their medications. As well, many faced other challenges – skipping doses, delaying filling or re-filling a prescription, or going without their needed pills due to a lack of funds. Others reported having trouble making ends meet when having to add the purchase of medications to their budget.

As the manager of the Wellspring ‘Money Matters’ program, I can say these findings come as no surprise. Frequently, we meet people who are surprised (shocked and fearful might be better words) to learn the fact that medications, unlike doctors or hospital visits, are not universally covered by their provincial health plan. Many cancer medications are administered in hospital, and thus covered under the hospital budget. But many are prescriptions filled in a local pharmacy and taken at home. And those are not covered. Getting insurance coverage is expensive, and many plans have caps or limits on the coverage. Many provincial drug programs do not cover new medications. So drug access is a major worry for cancer patients.

For several years, many groups and organizations have been lobbying for a universal drug coverage system in Canada. Cancer advocacy groups have been actively involved with this effort, but results are slow.

In Ontario, there is a program – The Trillium Drug Program (TDP) – that helps people who have high drug costs to get coverage. It’s an often unknown program, and helps anyone in Ontario with any drug costs. It’s not free though, there is a co-payment before free medications are available. To learn more about the TDP, visit the Ontario Ministry of Health website, or call the program directly at 416-642-3039 or 1-800-575-5386.

To read the full report, visit the Canadian Medical Association Journal website at www.cmaj.ca

Pamela Bowes, M.Ed.
Manager, ‘Money Matters’
Wellspring Cancer Support Network