Catastrophic drug program coming, Alward says

The provincial government is still not committing to a firm timeline on the creation of a catastrophic drug program.
Premier David Alward says a catastrophic drug plan is still a priority but could not give any details on Tuesday 1:20

The provincial government is still not committing to a firm timeline on the creation of a catastrophic drug program.

Premier David Alward promised to implement a catastrophic drug program during the 2010 election and again reiterated his support for the initiative in the summer.

Alward told reporters on Tuesday the drug plan is still a "significant priority" and he’d like to see it "sooner than later."

"The next part of the puzzle is to build our budget for the next year. I can tell you it is certainly a priority of our government to bring it forward as soon as we possibly can," Alward told reporters.

Premier David Alward said a catastrophic drug program is still a priority for his government. (CBC)

"Obviously, my preference would be to see next steps [in] this year, this coming year, but again we have a lot of work to do between now and when we present our budget in this next spring."

Tuesday’s throne speech mentioned the challenges faced by many New Brunswickers who are forced to pay hefty prescription drug costs, but stopped short of detailing its plan.

"More than a quarter of New Brunswickers have no prescription drug coverage and the cost of drug therapy can be catastrophic for many families," said Lt. Gov. Graydon Nicholas.

"Your government is committed to ensuring a made-in-New Brunswick drug insurance plan helps New Brunswickers afford prescriptions they need. Your government will be moving forward with recommendations to ensure that drug coverage is more accessible to all New Brunswickers."

The provincial government has been struggling to curtail its growing deficit.

The projected deficit is now $356-million, which is almost double the estimate released in March.

The Department of Health’s spending plan is on target, however, the government has had to make some difficult choices.

The throne speech referenced the need to address the rising cost of delivering health care.

"It is clear that the challenge of an aging population and soaring health care costs are outstripping our ability to pay for the services New Brunswickers need and want," the throne speech said.

"Unless we act now to rebuild our health care system, we could lose the publicly-funded, universal health-care system we cherish."

Health Minister Ted Flemming has been speaking about health sustainability since he was named to cabinet this fall.

There was a brief mention of the provincial government’s plan to add more medical services to hospitals in the Vitalité Health Network.

But the throne speech does not outline any specifics about a "five-year plan for greater equity in the province of health-care services."

Alward said the plan will be elaborated on later this week.