People who are on the provincial methadone program don’t have to pay dispensing fees to get the drug they need for their treatment, says Health Minister Doug Currie.
Currie said a doctor at the Mount Herbert provincial addictions treatment facility wrote the department a letter about the cost of refilling methadone prescriptions and its impact on people in the methadone program.
“Basically, recognizing the challenges with the wait times and some of the challenges with the issues around access to the program, we basically eliminated the fees on the prescriptions,” he said.
The provincial methadone program is meant to help ease people off opiate addictions and participants get the drug from pharmacies.
In July, the Drug Interchangeability and Pricing Act took effect, which allowed pharmacies to charge higher dispensing fees to make up for lost revenues from rebates.
Opposition health critic James Aylward raised the issue in the legislature Friday when he said the dispensing fee on methadone more than doubled after the government made the changes to how much pharmacies could charge to dispense drugs.
Aylward said it’s a considerable cost for people who are using methadone and trying to overcome addiction.
“Have you discussed this matter with our pharmacies, Minister (Currie) and why hasn’t this issue been negotiated with the pharmacies when the act was developed,” he said.
Currie said there was an increase in dispensing fees for methadone, but the province stopped it.
“As far as I’m concerned, that issue has been dealt with,” he said.
Aylward also said there is a need for the methadone program because doctors have to be more careful about prescribing opiates.
“Have you addressed these concerns formally with our physicians and what action has been taken,” he said.
Currie said he is concerned about the level of opiates on the streets, but the police have told him only about 10 per cent come from within the province.
But he also said the government is in constant contact with the medical society about opiate prescribing.
“There’s some really strict protocol around access to opiates,” he said.