The rising cost of living has left many people in Newfoundland and Labrador making decisions about where to put their money, including whether they can afford to fill their prescriptions, according to two industry figures.
Janice Audeau, president of the Pharmacists' Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, says the cost of medication is another burden as the prices of gas and groceries continue to rise, with the impact felt by seniors who come to the pharmacy.
"Someone might come in and say, 'I'm only gonna get these two prescriptions today. I don't need my other one, I still have lots.' But when we look at the file they are due or overdue for it," Audeau said Wednesday.
"So sometimes people make choices about what to fill when based on what they feel is most important, or based on, unfortunately, 'How much money do I have for this two-week period?'"
Audeau said patients' inability to afford their prescriptions is a real concern, she said, because medication is often necessary to help maintain people's health and potentially improve their quality of life.
"When someone is prescribed a medication like something for cholesterol or their blood pressure or something for diabetes, they're on that for a reason," she said.
"It's to keep their condition under control. So when people aren't taking the medications they're prescribed as a cost-saving measure, in the long run it ends up costing the individual."
Dr. Monika Dutt, member of a group called Canadian Doctors for Medicare and the medical officer of health for Newfoundland's Central and Western health authority's, says the decision often has a trickle-down effect — especially when medication is a mandatory part of budgeting.
"Then it's even more of a challenge to figure out, 'What am I going to pay for between all these different, very important needs?'" Dutt said.
Dutt says the rising cost of prescriptions highlights the need for a universal pharmacare program on top of a provincial collaborative-care system, similar to universal health care at hospitals where payment isn't required at the door.
"There has to be essential medications that people would all be able to access when they need them, not based on their ability to pay for them. We have been working for quite a while to try to help that happen," she said.
Audeau and the pharmacists' association are also pushing for a universal care model, but she said access to a pharmacist as a health-care professional is also necessary.
Pharmacists often review patients' medications, Audeau said, which can help determine dosages or decide if a particular prescription is still necessary when dealing with multiple medications.
But only one review per year is covered by Newfoundland and Labrador's prescription drug plan, leaving many to pay out of pocket for the service.
"It's not just about accessing all medications at all times. It's what are the appropriate medications? … Are you taking things that are actually harmful to you?" Audeau said.
"It's about medications, but appropriate medications in the right people at the right doses, at the right times."
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