PEI

Generic drug program fulfills P.E.I. Liberal election promise

A program capping the price of generic drugs at $19.95 for P.E.I. residents under age 65 who do not have private insurance was introduced by the province Monday.

Liberals promised generic drug program in spring election campaign

Dr. Jill Cunniffe, president of the Medical Society of P.E.I., Health Minister Doug Currie and Erin MacKenzie, executive director of the P.E.I. Pharmacists Association, announced a new generic drug plan for those under age 65 who don't have private health insurance. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

A program capping the price of generic drugs at $19.95 for P.E.I. residents under age 65 who don't have private insurance was introduced by the province Monday.

It's a tough feeling when you know that folks are going to miss out on important therapy because they can't afford it.- Erin MacKenzie, executive director of the P.E.I. Pharmacists Association

The program's launch on Oct. 1 will see the fulfilment of one of the new Liberal government's major health promises from the spring election campaign.

It will cost about $4 million per year and is expected to benefit an estimated 35,000 Islanders, or one-third of the population.

"It's a tough feeling when you know that folks are going to miss out on important therapy because they can't afford it," said Erin MacKenzie, executive director of the P.E.I. Pharmacists Association.

MacKenzie says she sees people every day who struggle with paying for prescriptions.

"Sometimes they will have five different prescriptions that they need to get filled and often what they'll do is they'll try to find out how much each one costs and then try to make that decision themselves about which ones they can take, kind of cherry-pick the medication that they take home due to cost."

Covers 1,000 generic drugs

Some families spend a significant amount of their budget on medicine, says Dr. Jill Cunniffe, president of the Medical Society of P.E.I.

P.E.I. Health Minister Doug Currie says the generic drug program will benefit 35,000 Islanders. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)
"And that's a decision they have to make each month, can they cover those medicines or does that money need to go somewhere else? And that's not allowing people to look after themselves the way they want. It's creating a financial cost barrier that, really, would be best if it wasn't there." 

The plan covers more than 1,000 generic drugs. Some exceptions include diabetes drugs, which are covered under another plan, and controlled substances such as narcotics.

"We expect it will help young people who are no longer on their parents drug plan, people in a new job and not yet on a health plan, self-employed Islanders with no coverage, people who develop conditions all of a sudden that require ongoing treatment and lower-income families for whom cost can be a barrier," said Minister of Health Doug Currie.

Islanders can apply for the program by completing an application online or in person at Access P.E.I. locations, pharmacies, or doctor's offices.

About 700 people have signed up so far and been approved for the program.

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