Top News

N.L. needs improved drug program


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 Newfoundland & 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 & 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

St. John’s, NL


Recent Stories