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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An examination of influences on prescription drug use amongst older adults with and without chronic illness in two Canadian provinces Chan, Fiona Ka Ieng


Background - Prescription medications, which are a critical component of modern medicine, are not covered under the Canada Health Act. Canadian prescriptions are financed through a combination of public financing, private insurance, and out-of-pocket payments. This leaves potential coverage gaps amongst different segments of the population. There are current discussions of a national pharmacare strategy to address this issue. It remains unclear how such a policy, particularly for seniors, should be financed. Methods – We first studied British Columbia’s publicly-funded pharmacare program to examine the impact of income-based deductibles on older adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in regards to prescription drug utilization and other health services. This was analyzed utilizing a regression discontinuity design with administrative datasets. The second study used logistic regression to examine the trend in employer-sponsored health insurance (EHI) availability amongst Ontario’s retirees from 2005 to 2014 using data from the Canadian Community Health Survey. Results - Deductibles had no effect on prescription utilization amongst a cohort of older adults living with COPD in BC. However, over 40% of the eligible person-years analyzed did not obtain a prescription for COPD treatment, suggesting severe under-treatment in this population. Results also suggest an increased use of inhaled corticosteroids, which may be due to a special authority process and may not be appropriate for COPD. A decline in EHI availability was apparent for Ontario’s retirees between 2005 and 2013-2014. EHI availability is strongly linked to household income, with those of a lower income-decile having the lowest odds of having EHI. Conclusion - Imposing a modest income-based deductible was not found to impact prescription utilization or utilization of other health services, even amongst a population with a chronic condition facing comparatively high prescription costs. In contrast, supplemental help in making prescriptions more affordable for the older adult population may be diminishing. A small but statistically significant decrease was observed in EHI – the main source of aid in prescription affordability apart from the public system. These results suggest that a comprehensive strategy to address medication adherence is warranted to minimize future health system burden.

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