A recent study showed that there could be more than 100,000 Canadians walking around with undiagnosed chronic diseases, possibly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Prescription Drug Trend Report indicates that there was a significant drop in claims for drugs used to treat serious conditions such as cancer, high blood pressure or diabetes.
“This trend is a cause for concern,” said Dr. Dorian Lo, president of Express Scripts Canada which compiled the report. “Delays in diagnosis and treatment increase the challenge for patients to manage their disease. For most conditions, seeking care in the earlier stages likely improves health outcomes and it helps decrease the risk of disease progression and related consequences.” Not only can a delay in diagnosis lead to more severe health outcomes, it can also become at a higher cost to treat them in the long-term.
The decrease in medications is believed to be due to the stay-at-home orders. Many people were not comfortable leaving their home to seek treatment for new onset ailments for fear of catching COVID-19 in the healthcare settings.
From the end of March 2020 through December 2020, cancer medications saw a 2% decrease in weekly new claims. That could mean approximately 10,000 Canadians did not start cancer treatments when they should have. These delays in medications and/or surgeries could result in people having more advanced cancers with fewer options available to them.
During this same time frame, an average of 1% decline for diabetes medication was seen. This could mean approximately 200,000 Canadians are not being treated for this disease. The same goes for high blood pressure, which could increase the risk of stroke or heart attack.
As the vaccine becomes more and more available, we suspect people’s confidence in seeking medical care will rebound. Keep in mind, the hospitals and doctors offices have taken great care and attention to keeping everyone safe should they need to seek care.