British Columbians Deserve Equitable Medication Care

  • Recent report highlights BC Government’s lack of funding to support patients with a rare gastrointestinal syndrome and many other conditions
  • 31 life-changing medications are covered in most provinces except BC, and the list is growing

April 10, 2024 – Vancouver, BC – The Gastrointestinal Society is urging the Government of British Columbia to immediately provide public coverage for medications through the BC PharmaCare program equivalent to other jurisdictions across Canada.

According to a groundbreaking analysis developed by the Gastrointestinal Society, the BC Medication Coverage Report, the BC government continues to underfund public coverage of medications compared to all other provinces. Using publicly available data, the Gastrointestinal Society exposes BC’s lowest per capita medication spending in the country in an educational video as well.

Key report findings:

  • While provinces nationwide have greenlit numerous medications in their public drug plans, BC stands apart by denying coverage for crucial treatments.
  • In 2022, the province allocated only $257 per person for prescription medicines, significantly lagging behind the Canadian average of $442.
  • This stagnant spending trend since 2010 contrasts starkly with increased budgets in other healthcare sectors, including hospitals, physicians, and regional services.
  • Between 2018 and 2023, BC rejected coverage for 31 critical medications approved by most provinces. In comparison, Ontario and Alberta only declined coverage for two or three of these medicines during the same period.
  • This has far-reaching consequences for patients grappling with conditions such as acne, bone fractures, migraines, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, short bowel syndrome, skin diseases, and more.
  • Those affected are left with limited options, unless equipped with private drug insurance, the financial means for out-of-pocket expenses, or the ability to relocate to another province.
  • Without access to necessary medications, patients are at risk of elevated symptoms, disease progression, and hospitalization, which can place increasing strains on an already overburdened healthcare system.

“When patients receive the right medications, they require fewer physician and hospital visits and experience improved overall wellbeing. The time for addressing the longstanding issue of inequitable access to medication care in BC is long overdue, particularly given the rising cost of living and an aging population,” said Gail Attara, Chief Executive Officer of the Gastrointestinal Society. “Patients shouldn’t have to suffer to receive proper care because of where they live in Canada. It is time for our government to prioritize and address the inequitable access to care in the province. Patient lives depend on it.”

BC Medication Inequity – For example, the one and only medication to treat short bowel syndrome (SBS) is covered by all provinces except BC and PEI. SBS occurs when the small intestine does not function properly due to trauma, disease activity, or when too much of it has been removed. This rare syndrome affects only 0.245 per cent of the population,1 but greatly affects these individuals’ lives. It can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, fatigue, weight loss, failure to thrive (in children), and other health problems.2

“Patients in BC living with short bowel syndrome, including children and adults, do not have public coverage for a life-changing medication that is now standard of care around the world. I have families considering moving to another province so they can access this medication,” says Dr. Andrea Martinez, Pediatric Physician in BC. “There is a point in time when I don’t have any more options to offer my patients in BC, when other colleagues in Canada have the option to offer this medication to their eligible patients. All eligible patients deserve the right to try this medication. I hope to offer them the chance to improve their health and live a life as normal as possible.”

Patient organizations, physicians, pharmacists, and allied health professionals are united in their call on the BC government to fix these disparities, ensuring that medication coverage aligns with standards observed in other Canadian jurisdictions. For detailed information, including the report and a concise video, please visit