In the late 1960s a Life-Saving Drug Program was introduced to ensure that those who needed life-saving drugs would be assured of receiving them, with the cost covered by the government. In the late 1990s this program was changed to the Special Drugs Program. The Pallister government has cancelled the Special Drug Program effective April 1, 2018. On March 15, I spoke on a Member's Statement about this program, and I asked a question in Question Period. Both are below.
My Members Statement
My Members Statement
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, Pallister government is terminating the Special Drug Program. The elimination of this program will have a very negative impact on those who live with cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition. A protein, the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator protein, is altered in function or decreased in amount.
Individuals with cystic fibrosis easily develop lung infections, and their lung function may be so severely affected as to lead to severe disability and death.
The life of someone with cystic fibrosis can be dramatically improved by medications to decrease infections, to improve absorption of food and vitamins and to treat CF-related diabetes when it's present. When the lung is severely affected, lung transplantation can help. Many adults with cystic fibrosis are able, with this support, to work and be significant contributors to the economy and their community.
It is vital that the financial support is there for the medications, as has been the practice up until now in Manitoba through the Special Drugs Program. These medications are expensive and the extra costs can mean great uncertainty for a person with cystic fibrosis. Consistent financial support for the medications is essential for their mental as well as their physical health. This support is what makes it possible for people with cystic fibrosis to lead a better life.
Such support is available in other provinces through a specific cystic fibrosis drug program in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon and through an exceptional drug program in Quebec. Manitoba has similar coverage to these other provinces now, but would fall well behind all other provinces if the special drug program was cancelled.
The government has a choice. It can have a special drug program so that people like Devin Rey and others can stay well and work and contribute to society and have a full life. Or it can eliminate the special drug program and have people with cystic fibrosis get anxious and sick so they end up in hospital and lose their income.
My Question in Question Period: Please note that the Minister of Health, in his reply, does not even acknowledge the fact that for people with Cystic Fibrosis, there will now be a deductible and for some this means they will have to pay up to $11,000 more a year just to get their medications.
Cuts to Special Drug Program
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, speaking of equality, those with cystic fibrosis start life with a disadvantage. All they ask for is equal opportunity when compared to others by having their medications fully covered under the Special Drug Program, as happens in every other province, as I table. [Other provinces, except Quebec, have a Cystic Fibrosis Drug Program to cover these medication costs. Quebec has an exceptional drug program which covers the cost. With the termination of the Special Drug Program, Manitoba is now an outlier in having less support for those with cystic fibrosis.]
The Minister of Health can have a Special Drug Program and keep people like Devin Rey well so he can work and contribute to society and have a full life. Or he can eliminate the program, as he's doing, so people will get anxious and sick so they end up in hospital, losing their income and costing the provincial health program a lot of money.
Which will the minister choose?
Hon. Kelvin Goertzen (Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living): Madam Speaker, in Manitoba we are fortunate to have one of the most comprehensive Pharmacare programs in all of Canada. In fact, it is such a good program the federal Liberal government is actually looking to emulate that program. All of those in Manitoba who need specialized drugs are eligible for the Pharmacare program. It is an income‑based program. It is comprehensive, it is fair and it is a leading standard for all provinces in Canada.