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Coverage of inexpensive drugs may increase length and quality of life after heart attack
Date:11/30/2009

Toronto, Ont., November 30, 2009 ― Providing free medications to people after heart attack could add years to patients' lives at a relatively low cost for provincial governments, according to a new study by researchers at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

"Many patients are not benefiting from effective prescribed medications because they simply don't fill their prescriptions," says Dr. Irfan Dhalla, the study's lead author and a physician at St. Michael's Hospital. "There is growing evidence that having to pay for medications out of pocket is a major reason."

Public coverage of pharmaceuticals in Canada is neither universal nor uniform because the Canada Health Act covers only physician and hospital services. According to data published in 2005, 11 per cent of Canadians had only catastrophic public coverage, and 4 per cent had no coverage at all.

The goal of the study was to demonstrate to policymakers what would happen if governments fully covered the costs of five heart attack medicationsa beta blocker, low-dose aspirin, an ACE inhibitor, a statin, and a relatively new drug called clopidogrelwhich are routinely prescribed for patients who have survived a heart attack.

The use of these effective and relatively inexpensive drugs has led to a dramatic decline in deaths from cardiovascular disease in recent years. Between 1980 and 2000, mortality from cardiovascular disease in Canada decreased by approximately 50%.

The researchers compared the benefits and the costs of two options:

  • The "status quo" option reflects the current situation across Canada where people who don't have private drug insurance or who aren't eligible for government-funded drug programs are expected to pay the full cost of their prescriptions after a heart attack.

  • The "full coverage" option would see governments pay the full cost of five recommended medications.

Implementing the full-coverage
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Contact: Julie Saccone
sacconej@smh.toronto.on.ca
416-864-5047
St. Michael's Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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