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May 1, 2018

Body Count: Canadians with curable illnesses are dying every day without pharmacare, according to a new study from Canada’s nurses

Media Release


OTTAWA, May 1, 2018 – Canada’s nurses unveiled a new study today – the first of its kind in Canada – that reveals the number of people in Canada who die or fall ill because prescription medications are unaffordable. The study, entitled Body Count, confirms that shortfalls in prescription drug coverage result in daily deaths and illness among people with treatable conditions, adding urgency to recent calls for the implementation of a universal pharmacare plan.

“We’ve known for years that Canada’s system of prescription drug coverage is inefficient and ineffective,” said Linda Silas, President of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU). “Now we know that our system is also costing lives each and every day, while worsening the health of tens of thousands every year.”

The study explores cost-related non-adherence (CRNA), or the failure to take medications as prescribed due to cost, among specific age groups and conditions. The study estimates that every year CRNA causes:

  • Up to 640 deaths among Canadians with ischemic heart disease
  • Up to 420 deaths among working-age (20-64) Canadians with diabetes
  • Up to 670 deaths among older working-age Canadians (55-64)
  • Up to 70,000 Canadians (age 55+) suffering avoidable health status deterioration
  • Up to 12,000 Canadians (age 40+) with cardiovascular disease requiring overnight hospitalization

Internationally-renowned physician, pharmaco-epidemiologist and lead author, Dr. Ruth Lopert, presented the findings of the Body Count study to parliamentarians and health care stakeholders at an event on Parliament Hill this morning.

“These numbers paint a stark picture of the true cost of financial barriers to prescription medications in Canada,” said Dr. Lopert. “Despite a lack of data availability, my research team used three different methodologies to arrive at these findings. They are conservative estimates that represent only part of the bigger picture of the cost-related non-adherence crisis in Canada.”

This April, the Commons health committee issued a historic report recommending the creation of a universal, single-payer, public pharmacare plan for Canada. New Democratic and Liberal party members have also endorsed resolutions for universal pharmacare at their respective conventions in recent months.

“Canada’s nurses are exasperated by the daily suffering of our patients simply because they cannot afford the medications they need,” said Silas. “The Body Count study reinforces the need for urgent action to stop these daily tragedies. The time to implement a universal, single-payer pharmacare plan is now!”


The CFNU is Canada’s largest nurses’ organization representing nearly 200,000 nurses and student nurses. The CFNU advocates on key health priorities, such as pharmacare, community care, health human resources, and federal engagement in the future of public health care.

For further information:
Lauren Snowball, CFNU Communications, 613-868-5702, lsnowball(at)