Arthritis Consumer Experts

July 29, 2021
For Immediate Release


(Vancouver, B.C.) — The results of a new Survey released by Arthritis Consumer Experts (ACE) reveal that reimbursement coverage accessibility and affordability for prescribed arthritis medications are causing hardship and forcing patients with arthritis to make difficult choices to obtain and stay on their life-changing medications.

“Although many Canadians have access to public or private drug insurance, the patchwork of drug plans in Canada creates inequities in access to medications that can lead to reduced treatment and treatment delays, exposes households and businesses to considerable financial burden, and isolates the management of prescription drugs from other key components of the Canadian healthcare system. The findings from ACE’s National Survey on Arthritis Medications Reimbursement for People Living with Arthritis expose the need to amplify patient needs and priorities throughout the regulatory approval and reimbursement access process,” said Cheryl Koehn, President and Founder, Arthritis Consumer Experts.

Click to download printable PDF of the infographic.

Nearly 20% of respondents reported that reimbursement for their arthritis medications through public or private drug plans is difficult compared to 68% of respondents who felt the reimbursement process is easy and straightforward. Respondents who identified as black, Indigenous or people of colour (BIPOC) were 3 times more likely to report the forms they need to fill out for reimbursement were confusing. In addition, there were 4 times more BIPOC respondents who indicated there were too many forms to fill out. These findings underscore the need to address health inequities in the various stages of the application process for medications reimbursement.

Public drug plan

While most respondents reported their public drug plan provided adequate reimbursement coverage, nearly 40% reported their public drug plan does not adequately pay for their arthritis medications.

Private drug plan

While most respondents reported receiving adequate reimbursement coverage from their private drug plan, 30% of respondents reported their private drug plan did not adequately pay for their arthritis medications. In terms of affordability, 54% of respondents who identified as having private drug plan coverage reported their portion of private drug plan premium is affordable, while 20% reported their portion as not affordable.

The impact of poor reimbursement coverage for arthritis medications

Among the responses from respondents, poor reimbursement coverage for prescribed arthritis medications forced them to:
  • Seek reimbursement coverage from pharmaceutical company: 13%
  • Take less of the prescribed medication (for example skipping a dose or splitting pills): 8%
  • Not fill your new prescription: 8%
  • Start taking a different medication: 5%
  • Fill some prescription medications over others: 5%
  • Borrow money to pay for medications: 5%
“We have work to do to improve the patient experience with the medications reimbursement process. ACE will report the Survey findings to drug plan managers and advocate for services that will make the reimbursement process easier and faster for patients. A delay to receiving arthritis medications has serious impact on patient’s health and quality of life and is not acceptable,” said Koehn.

About the Arthritis Consumer Experts National Survey on Arthritis Medications Reimbursement for People with Arthritis

The Survey was open from April 12, 2021 to April 30, 2021 and was open to people living with arthritis. It was developed using the online survey platform, Survey Monkey. Respondents required internet access in order to complete the Survey. Arthritis Consumer Experts received 319 responses for the community-led Survey, 249 in English and 70 in French. Respondents were patients living with different forms of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, lupus, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, fibromyalgia, Sjögren’s syndrome, scleroderma, and Behcet’s disease. The three most common forms of arthritis among respondents were rheumatoid arthritis (accounting for almost half of the respondents), osteoarthritis (14%), and ankylosing spondylitis (9%).

About Arthritis Consumer Experts

Arthritis Consumer Experts (ACE) is a national organization that provides free, science-based information and education programs to people with arthritis. ACE serves people living with all forms of arthritis by helping them take control of their disease and improve their quality of life through education and empowerment. Founded and led by people with arthritis, ACE also actively advocates on arthritis health and policy issues, through ACE’s JointHealth™ family of programs and the Arthritis Broadcast Network, directly to consumers/patients, healthcare professionals, media and government. ACE is guided by a strict set of guiding principles, set out by an advisory board comprised of leading scientists, medical professionals and informed arthritis consumers.

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For further information, please contact:
Kelly Lendvoy
Vice President, Communications & Public Affairs
Arthritis Consumer Experts
direct: 604.379.9898