Island woman calls foul on catastrophic drug plan

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When Sandra Bruce heard the P.E.I. government was starting a catastrophic drug plan she hoped her $600 a month fibromyalgia medication would be covered.

Sandra Bruce holds up a bottle of pregabalin, which she takes for her fibromyalgia and isn't covered by the province's catastrophic drug plan.

It wasn't.

Now she's trying to get it added to the provincial formulary and says calling the plan a catastrophic drug program is misleading.

"That's a lie."

Bruce didn't always have trouble paying for her medication because her husband had medical coverage through his work and later through Holland College after he went back to school.

Since then they have both been out of work and despite taking a generic version of the drug pregabalin that costs $250 a month, Bruce still struggles to pay for the medication.

The provincial catastrophic drug plan puts a cap on how much Islanders will spend on medication based on their family income, as long as they aren't covered by any of the government's other drug plans.

To qualify, a drug has to be included in the provincial formulary, which pregabalin isn't.

In a statement from a Health and Wellness Department spokeswoman, she said pregabalin isn't covered for fibromyalgia in any of the Atlantic provinces and after a review process, it has not been recommended for the condition.

Since 2013, when the catastrophic drug program was announced, the province has added 33 new drugs to its formulary, including 8 this year.

The spokeswoman said the department will continue to review medications that can be added to the list of publicly-funded drugs based on the advice of experts.

Bruce said without pregabalin she would be in bed all the time and she has been trying different medications to see if anything else will work, but has been unsuccessful.

"It's just been a huge headache."

After applying to have her medication paid for and finding out it wasn't covered, Bruce said she thinks Islanders need to know the program isn't as comprehensive as it sounds.

In her case, Bruce said the government needs to support people who are sick and falling through the cracks.

"I've got nowhere to turn."

Organizations: Holland College, Health and Wellness Department

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