Saskatchewan, B.C. make changes to drug programs

Starting today, seniors and children in Saskatchewan will have to pay more for prescription drugs under the province’s drug program.

As part of the province’s budget yesterday, the Saskatchewan government announced costs under the children’s and seniors’ drug plan would rise by $5 per prescription. The change will result in a maximum of $25 per prescription.

The government expects the increases will cost 66,000 families about $20 a year on average and 120,000 seniors about $80 a year on average. Drug plan costs have grown by an average of $10 million annually since 2012-13, when the government last boosted costs by $5 to $20 per prescription.

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The changes come as Finance Minister Kevin Doherty released the 2016-17 provincial budget that calls for a deficit of $434 million.

According to the Saskatchewan government, boosting drug costs will save it $6.75 million in the upcoming fiscal year and $9 million annually in future years.

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British Columbia is also making drug changes by expanding its reference drug program that provides patients with cheaper medications to treat the same illness.

As of Dec. 1, the province will add drugs that treat high blood pressure and heart disease, stomach-acid issues and high cholesterol.

Critics say the change will burden seniors and low-income people who will have to pay out of pocket if they can’t switch to the cheaper alternative.

But according to Health Minister Terry Lake, doctors can apply for full coverage after patients have tried the cheapest option.

“As we are looking at things like hepatitis C drugs that are coming on stream, we have to be able to accommodate these new treatments that are quite expensive,” he said.

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