Manitoba

NDP promises to restore special drugs program

Manitoba New Democrats are promising to restore a special-drugs program that used to cover the pharmacare deductible for people with chronic and serious illnesses.

Province paid deductible for chronic patients from 1968 to 2018

NDP leader Wab Kinew stood inside a Silver Heights pharmacy and pledged to restore a provincial special-drugs program. (Lyza Sale/CBC)

Manitoba New Democrats are promising to restore a special-drugs program that used to cover the pharmacare deductible for people with chronic and serious illnesses.

NDP leader Wab Kinew promised Tuesday to restore the $900,000-a-year program, which Manitoba offered from 1968 until 2018.

About 1,100 Manitobans with illnesses such as diabetes and cystic fibrosis were served by the program before it ended on April 1, 2018.

"Since that program was ended, folks  that were previously covered by that program were moved over to pharmacare and has to start paying deductibles and in some cases, very very expensive deductibles," Kinew said inside a pharmacy in the St James neighbourhood of Silver Heights.

"This has made life more burdensome, more difficult."

During last week's leaders' debate, Kinew told the story of Devin Rey, a cystic fibrosis patient who cancelled his wedding after the program ended.

He accompanied Kinew to Tuesday's announcement and said the end of the special drugs program has cost him about $500 a year.

In response to the NDP announcement, PC Morden-Winkler candidate Cameron Friesen said in a statement that Kinew is "advocating for two-tiered health care that provides an inequitable level of support."

In July, the Manitoba Liberals made a similar pledge to restore the special-drugs program.

On Tuesday, Kinew also pledged to freeze the pharmacare deductible in Manitoba, a move he said would not cost the province anything.

He also promised an NDP government would increase the use of generic drugs, bring in bio-similar medications to expensive biological drugs such as Enbrel and Remicade and look at bulk purchases of medications, along with other provinces, in order to save money.

Friesen said Kinew is unaware Manitoba already co-operates with other provinces to buy medications in bulk and also allows physicians to prescribe bio-similar medications.

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