N.L. needs an im­proved drug pro­gram

The Compass - - OPINION -

Dear Edi­tor,

Since my high school years, I have al­ways had a pas­sion for so­cial jus­tice and equal­ity, es­pe­cially for phar­ma­care.

I am a Cana­dian Cit­i­zen, a res­i­dent of the prov­ince of New­found­land and Labrador – I love the prov­ince and city that I am liv­ing in, and yes, I am proud of my On­tario roots!

I am glad I ad­vo­cated for the On­tario As­sis­tive De­vices Pro­gram for Os­to­m­ates and Per­sons with Phys­i­cal Dis­abil­i­ties, back in the 1980s. I am glad I par­tic­i­pated in the 1989 On­tario SARC (So­cial As­sis­tance Re­view Com­mit­tee), dur­ing the David Peter­son era, which five years later led to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the On­tario Tril­lium Drug Pro­gram, un­der an NDP Govern­ment, back in 1995.

Back then I (and still am) have al­ways been in­spired by the likes of Tommy Dou­glas, Ed Broad­bent, the late Jack Lay­ton, Thomas Mul­cair, Nfld. & Lab. NDPers Jack Har­ris, Ryan Cleary, Lor­raine Michael, Ge­orge Mur­phy, Gerry Rogers, Dale Kirby, Chris Mitchel­more, Sheilagh O’Leary and many oth­ers.

I am glad that I have, and still am, ad­vo­cat­ing for the National Phar­ma­care Pro­gram.

Since 2003, I have been ad­vo­cat­ing for not only a National Phar­ma­care Pro­gram, but also an im­proved New- found­land & Labrador Pre­scrip­tion Drug Pro­gram (NLPDP). On nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions, I have made rec­om­men­da­tions of sup­port­ing uni­ver­sally, ac­ces­si­ble phar­ma­care at var­i­ous provin­cial and fed­eral govern­ment strat­egy hear­ings, like the 2004 Men­tal Health Strat­egy; the provin­cial Poverty Re­duc­tion Strat­egy, and the National Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Strat­egy, and the var­i­ous elected lead­ers and mem­bers of the House of Com­mons, and the provin­cial/ter­ri­to­rial leg­is­la­tures, in­clud­ing the House of Assem­bly. In fact, I have re­ceived nu­mer­ous re­sponses from the Fed­eral Min­is­ter of Health; and the Al­berta, Saskatchewan, Man­i­toba, On­tario, New Brunswick, Nova Sco­tia, and New­found­land & Labrador Health Min­is­ters.

Since 2003, our prov­ince has made some im­prove­ments in the NLPDP. Ac­cord­ing to Health & Com­mu­nity Min­is­ter, Su­san Sul­li­van: “Since 2006, our Govern­ment has made sig­nif­i­cant progress in ex­pand­ing drug cov­er­age to the res­i­dents of the Prov­ince through the Ac­cess Plan for low in­come fam­i­lies (2006) and the As­sur­ance Plan for fam­i­lies with high drug costs (2007)...”

There are five main plans un­der this pro­gram:

• The Foun­da­tion Plan - Full 100% Drug Cov­er­age for those res­i­dents who re­ceive in­come sup­port through the Depart­ment of Ad­vance Ed­u­ca­tion & Skills, and cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als who are in the care of Child, Youth & Fam­ily Ser­vices, and res­i­dents in su­per­vised care.

• The 65Plus Plan — Res­i­dents who are 65 years and older and who re­ceive the Old Age Se­cu­rity Ben­e­fits (OAS) and the Guar­an­teed In­come Sup­ple­ment (GIS) are el­i­gi­ble for the 65Plus Plan, and can qual­ify for the Os­tomy Sub­sidy Pro­gram. Those who ben­e­fit from the 65Plus Plan are re­spon­si­ble for the $6 dol­lar dis­pens­ing fee, and el­i­gi­ble Os­to­m­ates 65 years and older are re­spon­si­ble for the last 25% of their Os­tomy Sup­ply Costs.

• The Ac­cess Plan — Pro­vides as­sis­tance to low in­come in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies for af­ford­able pre­scrip­tion drugs. The amount of cov­er­age is de­ter­mined by net in­come and fam­ily size.

• The As­sur­ance Plan — Pro­vides as­sis­tance to res­i­dents who have high drug costs. The ac­tual cov­er­age is de­ter­mined by their net in­come and the per­cent­age of their an­nual net in­come be­ing used to pur­chase ap­proved drugs — 5%, 7.5% or 10 per cent of their net fam­ily in­come.

• The Se­lect Needs Plan — Pro­vides 100% cov­er­age for two dis­eased spe­cific med­i­ca­tions-Cys­tic Fi­bro­sis and Growth Hor­mone De­fi­ciency.

While we are blessed with an im­proved NLPDP Phar­ma­care Pro­gram (a pro­gram paid for by our col­lec­tive taxes), there is al­ways room for fur­ther im­prove­ments. Af­ter all, there are still some New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans slip­ping through the cracks of our so­cial safety net. And, while it is good for those Os­to­m­ates 65+Plus, OAS and GIS re­cip­i­ents, to have Os­tomy Sub­si­dies for their ap­proved Os­tomy Sup­plies, I would like to see this pro­gram ex­tended to cover Os­to­m­ates who are, or will be el­i­gi­ble for both the Ac­cess and As­sur­ance Plans.

In Min­is­ter Su­san Sul­li­van’s own words; “...we con­tinue to look for op­por­tu­ni­ties to part­ner with the Fed­eral Govern­ment and the other prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries to en­chance drug cov­er­age.” While it’s sounds good for our prov­ince to co­op­er­ate and col­lab­o­rate with Ot­tawa and the other prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries, where does she and the whole Dun­derdale P.C. Govern­ment stand in re­gards to the fed­eral Harper Con­ser­va­tive Govern­ment’s aban­don­ment of it’s national lead­er­ship role in the National Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Strat­egy?

Like many of you, I want all Cana­di­ans to have the same drug cov­er­age whether you live in Bri­tish Columbia, Al­berta, On­tario, Que­bec, Nu­navut or here in New­found­land and Labrador or any­where else in Canada.

I wel­come sev­eral national, provin­cial and lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions (the Cana­dian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion and the Cana­dian Health Coali­tion, to name two) sup­port for a uni­ver­sally, ac­ces­si­ble phar­ma­care pro­gram.

It shouldn’t mat­ter what your so­cio-eco­nomic sta­tus or age group is — a busi­ness­man/woman; fish­er­men; farm­ers; labour­ers; pro­fes­sion­als; health­care providers; un­em­ployed, stu­dents, part-time work­ers; First Na­tions and Inuit; sea­sonal work­ers, se­niors; men­tal health con­sumers; per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties; chil­dren and other groups — all should be cov­ered for their pre­scrip­tion drugs, and med­i­cal de­vices!

Ev­ery New­found­lan­der and Labrado­rian should have at least some kind of pri­vate or pub­lic drug plan. — Ed­ward Saw­don writes from St. John’s, NL

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