The BC Pharmacy Association says pressures on the country’s prescription drug supply is easing and “where possible, pharmacists who now have adequate supplies are dispensing the full 90-day supply of medications patients would traditionally receive.”
The decision to change to dispensing only a 30-day supply was made early on in the pandemic by pharmacists across the country. It also raised concerns about patients having to pay three dispensing fees for the same amount of medication they were used to paying for only once.
As far back as April 3, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix were acknowledging the concerns and Dix said he was working on ways to address the issue for seniors and people using the province’s Fair PharmaCare Plan.
“I know that’s been a challenge,” Henry said at her April 29 briefing with Dix. “We’re now seeing that the supply chains are coming back on line so I do expect there will be some movement on that in the near future. It was a prudent measure that we needed to take across the country to ensure that we had appropriate supply for everybody.”
“Early on, especially in March, we saw with prescriptions what we saw with groceries,” Dix added. “There was advice from Health Canada for people to go and fill prescriptions at the time and then there was some consumer demand that put pressure on pharmacies, so many pharmacies went to a 30-day model.”
Earlier this week, the BC Pharmacy Association issued a statement saying that while supply is still a problem, “members tell us that the situation is balancing and that more ‘normal’ orders are being received.
“We are asking our members to continue to be consistent with government policy by providing their patients with the maximum 90 days’ supply where they can, but to continue dispensing 30 days’ where supply is an issue for the pharmacy,” the statement said.
“We ask for the public’s understanding that some pharmacies may still be facing challenges in keeping their shelves stocked, but where possible, pharmacists will use their judgment to provide supplies longer than 30 days.”
Dix said he continues to work with PharmaCare to address the financial stress caused by the extra dispensing fees for people on that plan and said the timing of the COVID-19 pandemic made the problem worse for people whose medication is covered by any plan with deductibles.
“There are some concerns that have been expressed by a lot of people about having to pay more and because this pandemic has occurred early in the year, people have not reached their deductibles yet,” he said. “It’s causing for some people cash flow problems and we’re certainly looking at that.”
Dix also said that PharmaCare already includes options such as an income review for people who’ve lost work that could lead to a lower deductible and covering deductibles through small monthly payments throughout the year. People can get more information about how to access those options by calling Health Insurance BC at 1-800-663-7100.