Manitoba

Diabetes patients 'distraught,' want same Pharmacare deductible delay as others

Patients with diabetes say they might have to choose between paying for food and rent or paying for their medication after the province cancelled the Special Drug Program, forcing them to apply for coverage and pay a deductible under the Pharmacare program.

51 cystic fibrosis patients were granted 6-month delay to pay after Special Drug Program ended on April 1

Patients who had their medication paid for under the Special Drug Program will now have to pay the Pharmacare deductible after the program was cancelled on April 1, 2018. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Patients with diabetes say they might have to choose between paying for food and rent or paying for their medication after the province cancelled the Special Drug Program, forcing them to apply for coverage and pay a deductible under the Pharmacare program.

In a February letter to Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen, the regional director of Diabetes Canada said they are receiving calls from "distraught" people and asked him to delay the cut, which was scheduled to take effect April 1.

"With the short seven weeks' notice and absence of prior consultation, Diabetes Canada is concerned that some people will be unable to pay the required Pharmacare deductible," Andrea Kwasnicki wrote to Goertzen on Feb. 15, 2018.

Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew raised the issue during question period on Thursday. 

"Families of these patients have been scrambling to come up with thousands of dollars for the life-saving medication just to stay alive," Kinew said.

There were about 1,100 Manitobans enrolled in the Special Drug Program, or SDP, formerly called the Life-Saving Drug Program.

The program began in 1968 to help those with medical conditions associated with high drug costs, and who had their prescriptions paid for entirely by the province.

When the province's current drug program, Pharmacare, was introduced in 1996, those people were "grandfathered in" and continued to benefit from the exemption, while other Manitobans began paying a deductible based on their household income.

Those 1,100 people were told in February they would have to start paying the Pharmacare deductible, beginning April 1.

However, 51 cystic fibrosis patients on the program will now have six months to come up with their deductible.

Kinew questioned why the same deferral wasn't granted to all patients.

Asked to clarify after question period, Goertzen said there was a concern some cystic fibrosis patients would face delays filling their prescriptions.

"They indicated that they might have more of a challenge meeting with their doctors, and in turn connecting with their pharmacies to refill their prescriptions, to meet that timeframe," Goertzen.

"I recognize some of the other groups don't like the change, but the vast majority of those who are living with diabetes in Manitoba are on the Pharmacare program, have been on the Pharmacare program for decades," he said.

Diabetes Canada said patients in Manitoba with Type 1 diabetes pay between $800 to more than $8,000 a year, while people with Type 2 diabetes pay nearly $2,000 a year.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cameron MacLean is a journalist for CBC Manitoba living in Winnipeg, where he was born and raised. He has more than a decade of experience reporting in the city and across Manitoba, covering a wide range of topics, including courts, politics, housing, arts, health and breaking news. Email story tips to cameron.maclean@cbc.ca.

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