Dear Leaders: Make Catastrophic Drug Coverage a Priority

08 September 2011

Charlottetown -

The Prince Edward Island Health Charities Network is asking provincial election candidates and party leaders to create equity for Islanders by committing to the implementation of a much needed catastrophic drug program in the province.   

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. 

“The excuse of the government for some time now has been that federal financial assistance is required to make a catastrophic drug program possible,” says Betty Fraser, President, Canadian Cancer Society, PEI Division. “Eight out of ten provinces in Canada have found a way to make this happen on their own. Why should PEI be different and why are Islanders being treated as second class citizens?”

During the 2007 provincial election campaign in Prince Edward Island, the current government made a promise to work with the federal government and other provincial governments to establish a catastrophic drug program. Four years later, Islanders are still without catastrophic drug coverage.

 “Over the years many promises have been made to repair the broken drug access system on the Island, yet thousands of people are still struggling to pay for their medications,” says Dr. Margaret Munro, President of the PEI Lung Association Board of Directors. “Islanders are still going without their treatments and are forced to make tough decisions such as whether to buy groceries for their families or pay for their medications. This is unacceptable and it is time to see action, not just promises.”

The PEI Health Charities Network is calling upon the political parties to commit to implementing a program that ensures 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.

 “When you can’t pay for your medications, other systems suffer – you may spend more time in hospital, you may be unable to work, and in some cases, you may be forced to rely on social assistance to support your family,” says Jessesar MacNeil of the MS Society of Canada, Atlantic Division. “Islanders deserve equal access to the most appropriate, highest-quality medications and health services, regardless of where they live and whether they are receiving treatment in hospital or at home.”

Today the Network is launching an online letter writing campaign where Islanders can ask for their party leaders’ support of a catastrophic drug program and provides an opportunity for sharing their experiences. In doing so, the Network hopes election candidates and leaders will learn the full scope of the issue. We are calling on all Islanders to take action by going to This key health issue affects many of our family members and friends. 

“The establishment of a catastrophic drug program in this province will be an investment in the future health of Islanders,” says MacNeil.

The PEI Health Charities Network online letter writing campaign can be found at

The PEI Health Charities Network is a coalition of the Alzheimer Society of Canada; the Arthritis Society of PEI; the Canadian Cancer Society, PEI Division; the Canadian Diabetes Association; Kidney Cancer Canada, Atlantic Region; the Kidney Foundation of Canada; the Lung Association of Prince Edward Island; the MS Society of Canada, Atlantic Division; and the Parkinson Society of Canada.

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