New drugs to be covered by Province

Teresa Wright
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Ten new medications are being added to the list of drugs covered by the province, but the P.E.I. Cancer Society says funding for this initiative would be better spent creating a catastrophic drug program for P.E.I.
On Friday, Health Minister Carolyn Bertram announced that, effective July 1, six new medications will be provided through the province's High Cost Drug program and another four will be available through four of P.E.I.'s other provincial drug programs.
Dawn Binns, executive director of the P.E.I. division of the Canadian Cancer Society says the society is pleased government is expanding the coverage that is available to Islanders but is concerned about major coverage gaps that still exist.

Ten new medications are being added to the list of drugs covered by the province, but the P.E.I. Cancer Society says funding for this initiative would be better spent creating a catastrophic drug program for P.E.I.
On Friday, Health Minister Carolyn Bertram announced that, effective July 1, six new medications will be provided through the province's High Cost Drug program and another four will be available through four of P.E.I.'s other provincial drug programs.
Dawn Binns, executive director of the P.E.I. division of the Canadian Cancer Society says the society is pleased government is expanding the coverage that is available to Islanders but is concerned about major coverage gaps that still exist.
Six of the new medications added to the formulary Friday will be on the High Cost Drug program including Lucentis, Avastin, Remicade, Enbrel, Humira and Orencia.
This program is available to all Islanders who meet the clinical criteria, but the drugs are not free. An income assessment is completed to determine an amount the patient will cost-share for medication through this program.
The other four new drugs - Fragmin, Lovenox, Proscar and Avodart - are only available to those who qualify for the family health benefit, financial assistance, nursing home and seniors programs.
That leaves many Islanders still completely uncovered for these and other expensive drugs, Binns said.
"Those who don't qualify for any of those programs often can't get access to those medications and we know that there is a large percentage of our population that do not qualify for those pieces."
That's why the province needs a catastrophic drug program, Binns said. It would provide a financial safety net for all Islanders whose medications are approved and recommended.
"Essentially it makes sure that you can afford what is deemed medically necessary," she said.
Bertram said her department is working toward modernizing the province's drug programs. But when asked about a catastrophic drug program for P.E.I., Bertram said the province would need the federal government to partner with P.E.I. to put one in place.
"We are still working as ministries across the country for the federal government to support a catastrophic drug program for all Canadians and we will stay committed here on P.E.I. to working with our federal counterparts to achieve that."
Binns pointed out that health care is a provincial responsibility and that every province in Canada except New Brunswick and P.E.I. have catastrophic drug programs.
"While we agree that the federal government needs to be at the table with all the provinces because this is an ongoing issue, we do not agree that the provincial government should wait before they act on behalf of Islanders," Binns said.
"If this was the stance that was taken with all of our health care needs, I'm not sure how successful we'd be, so we are concerned that has been a message that the provincial government has been giving for a number of years."
Bertram said she will continue to work on modernizing the province's medical coverage programs and added that since the Liberals took office in 2007, government has increased spending on drugs by 45 per cent.
The 10 new medications added Friday represent an increase of $1.3 million to the provincial formulary budget.

Organizations: Islanders, P.E.I. Cancer Society, P.E.I. division Canadian Cancer Society

Geographic location: Canada, New Brunswick

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