What does it cost our healthcare system when medications are not taken as prescribed?


Scientific Study Title: 


Cost and burden of medication non-adherence according to prescribed drug spending and medication use rates (COMPUTE)


Principal Investigator:


Mary De Vera, MSc, PhD, Research Scientist, Arthritis Research Canada, Assistant Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of British Columbia; Canada Research Chair (Tier 2), Medication Adherence, Utilization, and Outcomes


Study Start Date: 


January 2021


Study End Date: 


January 2022


Why do this research?


Many Canadians use prescription medications to help them manage diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis. The need for these medications continues to grow as our population ages. In Canada, we spent nearly $34 billion on prescription medications in 2019, making them the second most costly part of our healthcare system.


For medications to work, people need to take them as prescribed but, for many, this is a struggle. Although, we know how much medications are costing our healthcare system, we do not know how much it costs our healthcare system when medications are not taken as prescribed.


With Canadians pressing for a universal Pharmacare system, it is more important than ever to understand how medications are being taken in the real world. It is also important to know what it costs our healthcare system when medications are not taken as prescribed so that good policy decisions can be made.


What will be done?


We will look at healthcare data from the province of British Columbia to understand how top medications prescribed in Canada are being taken and identify what problems take place when medications are not taken as prescribed. Problems can include not following doses, not refilling prescriptions on time, and stopping prescriptions. We will learn whether problems like these lead to unavoidable healthcare costs in terms of visits to doctors, hospitals, and use of other medications. 


Who is involved? 


Individuals included in “big data” on healthcare from the Province of British Columbia.

Results apply broadly to Canadian healthcare context?




Larry Lynd, PhD, BSP, Professor Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Dr. M. Sadatsafavi, Dr. P. Zed, Dr. A. Safari, Dr. L. Guenette, Dr. D. Blackburn, Dr. S. Stewart, Dr. I. Kuo, N. Rebic, BSc (Pharm), MSc (Pharm) Candidate, University of British Columbia, Arthritis Research Canada Trainee


Funding Agency:


British Columbia Ministry of Health