Joel French, executive director of Public Interest Alberta, said while Canadians talk about creating a national pharmacare system, Alberta is doing the opposite, in a Feb. 12, 2020 story. (Image from Facebook)

Alberta heading in wrong direction

Pharmaceutical drug coverage reduced

The executive director of an Alberta advocacy group says the provincial government is backwards when it comes to insurance coverage for medication.

Joel French, of Public Interest Alberta, said while Canadians talk about creating a national pharmacare system, Alberta is doing the opposite.

“We’re suppose to be moving towards pharmaceutical coverage for everybody. We’re having conversations about that nationally,” said French during a stop in Red Deer on Wednesday.

“Albertans realize it’s common sense that it should just be covered as part of our health-care system. We’re going the opposite direction.”

He said instead of improving coverage, the province is changing drug plan benefits that will impact 46,000 people starting March 1.

Right now, Albertans 65 or older and their spouses and dependents, regardless of their age, get help covering the cost of their prescription drugs.

The government has said no other province covers dependent and spousal benefits under senior drug plans.

Plans were also announced to no longer fund biologics drugs in favour of biosimilars, which are based on expired patents delivered at less cost.

Exceptions will be made for patients with valid clinical reasons they cannot switch.

Adrea Rusnak, of Red Deer, said in addition to possibly losing access to biologics, coverage for two non-biologic drugs she uses, Resotran to aid digestion and Nabilone for pain, have also been eliminated as of January.

However, a spokesperson from Alberta Health said multiple strengths of Nabilone are available for members of the government-sponsored drug program, but there is a ongoing shortage.

The lowest cost price for the drug has been lifted to allow reimbursement of the brand as well as generics during the shortage.

Resotran has also never been available through the government-sponsored drug program.

Rusnak maintained she no longer has coverage under her non-group plan for either drug.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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