Commitment to Improved Drug Access for Islanders Not Fulfilled

06 April 2011

Charlottetown -

In response to today’s budget the PEI Health Charities Network is expressing concern that Islanders are still being treated as second class citizens when it comes to access to much needed medications.

In February of 2009 the Premier and Minister of Health announced plans to modernize the Island’s outdated and inadequate drug programs yet to date, there have been no changes to the programs available to Islanders seeking coverage for medications, says the PEI Health Charities Network in a release today.

At that time the provincial government publicly recognized the inadequacies of its existing programs and announced it was embarking on a modernization of the provincial drug programs to address the fact that many Islanders are falling through the cracks.  The PEI Health Charities Network believes these improvements must be a high priority for government and include catastrophic drug coverage for all Islanders.

 “Over two years ago we congratulated the Premier on his commitment to revising the provincial programs so that more families would not face the financial burdens associated with important medications in the future,” says Dr. Margaret Munro, President of the PEI Lung Association Board of Directors. “Today’s budget marks the second time the Premier has not kept his commitment to make changes to the programs ensuring all Islanders are covered for the medications they need. This is unacceptable.”

Currently, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick are the only two provinces in the country that do not have a universal catastrophic drug program to protect individuals against the financial burden of medications. Without  changes to the existing system, there continues to be approximately 25% of Islanders who are not covered by either a private or public drug program. 

“While government adds new medications to its provincial formulary it is ignoring the most important issue,” says Betty Fraser, President, Canadian Cancer Society, PEI Division. “Many Islanders require medications to treat their illness and manage their health. When these costs exceed their ability to pay, a safety net, such as a catastrophic drug program must be available. This currently is the case in 8 out of 10 provinces, but not here in Prince Edward Island.”

The PEI Health Charities Network is calling upon the Premier to keep his two-year old commitment to improve Islanders’ access to medications by implementing a universal catastrophic drug program.  Such a program would ensure that if the cost of an individual’s required medications exceeds 3% of their income, assistance is provided to ensure equitable access for all Islanders.

“Islanders expect to receive the same level of coverage as all other Canadians, and today that is not the case. Where you live should not dictate the quality of treatment you receive for your disease,” says Jessesar MacNeil of the MS Society of Canada, Atlantic Division. “We are calling on the Premier to keep promises made to Islanders in the last election, and the promises he restated two years ago - the promise to modernize the provincial drug programs, so that anyone diagnosed with a serious health condition can focus on getting well, not fighting a health system that is not there for them when they need it most.”

The PEI Health Charities Network is a coalition of the PEI Lung Association, the MS Society of Canada, Atlantic Division, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Prince Edward Island and the Canadian Cancer Society, PEI Division.

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

For more information, please contact:

Lori Barker

Executive Director

Phone: 902-566-4007