A Red Deer couple forced to spend $800 extra on antibiotic pills their daughter didn’t need are calling for a change to the expensive and wasteful pharmaceutical practice.
Cynthia Hiscock, 26, was given a 30-pill prescription for superbug antibiotic Zyvoxam on March 22. Cynthia was diagnosed with kidney disease when she was eight and was on dialysis when she developed an infection in March. Her parents said the Real Canadian Superstore pharmacy in Red Deer insisted on selling them 40 pills, at a total cost of $3,200, saying they were only available in blister packs of 20.
Her father Edward Hiscock said it’s just plain wrong.
“It’s a month salary but I’ll pay it off. But what about the people who don’t have work? What if Cynthia didn’t have the support?” Hiscock said.
“Cynthia at that time was extremely sick. She had to be admitted to the hospital. She was in a lot of pain and from what I understand she could have actually died if she wasn’t treated.”
He said the pharmacy wouldn’t order the drug unless the family paid first.
Her father said according to the company that produces the drug, the normal dosage is two 600-mg tablets a day for 12 to 15 days.
“For Superstore, it’s kind of ironic they only sell them in 20 packs. That doesn’t even meet the needs of a basic prescription.”
With a company as large as Superstore, with stores across Canada, you would think they would have a better prescription system to meet the needs of customers, he said.
He said over the years his family had to pay for experimental drugs for Cynthia that weren’t covered by insurance.
“I don’t remember this ever coming up before where we had to over-buy drugs and we’ve bought some pretty expensive medications over the years.”
Hiscock said after the Advocate contacted Loblaw Companies Ltd. for comment, a representative from the company called him with an apology and reimbursement for the 10 extra pills.
In emails to the Advocate, David Primorac senior director of public relations with Loblaw, said customer care is important to Loblaw.
“We’ve discussed this concern with the pharmacist who dispensed the prescription and apologize for any confusion or inconvenience this may have caused the patient,” Primorac said.
He said it was an anomaly.
“We provide medication as prescribed and we work closely with our patients and their medical practitioners should there be any questions, especially when making final decisions on prescriptions, where package varies from medical directions.”
But sometimes medication comes in fixed amounts, he said.
“For any medication that is sealed, i.e. an injectable, there is no choice but to sell the dose that is available. For example, if the patient requires an injectable of three cc and the product is only available in five cc, then the only option is to sell them five cc. Of course this would be in consultation with their medical professional,” Primorac said.
The family expects Alberta Blue Cross will cover the cost of the 30 pills that were prescribed.
The issue couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Hiscocks as Cythnia was preparing for a kidney transplant from her father Edward, 57, a retired RCMP officer.
“They are both doing good. The kidney is working,” said Cynthia’s mother Yvonne Hiscock after the surgeries at University of Alberta Hospital on April 19.
Edward’s surgery to remove one of his kidneys was five hours long and Cynthia’s operation was four hours.
Cynthia was still in hospital this week.
Once she is released, she and her mother will live at a residence at the U of A hospital for six weeks so hospital staff can monitor her recovery.
Her mother, an LPN at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre, said dispensing unnecessary antibiotics is worrisome and she wrote a letter to Alberta Health Services’ Infection Prevention Control department and her MLA.
“Experts are warning that overuse of antibiotics is creating unstoppable superbugs. Superstore is aiding this to happen. If (customers) pay that much money for antibiotics, they’re going to say: ‘I’m going to keep this if I get a cold or sore throat and just use them,’ ” she said.
She hopes other people who have faced similar issues with drugs will come forward.
Alberta College of Pharmacists deals with complaints about pharmacy operations.
“The appropriate use of antibiotics is something we’re all highly conscious of,” said college registrar Greg Eberhart.
The college has not seen a problem with over-dispensing of antibiotics as described, he said.
The public can contact the college’s complaints director if they have concerns. The Hiscocks had not filed a complaint.
“We have no details whatsoever on the matter and I think it’s inappropriate to make any generalized statements without a clear understanding of the facts.”