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WENDY JONES: Cost of drugs ‘killing us’

The high cost of drugs is killing some Islanders, says Wendy Jones of Belle River.
(File Graphic)
The high cost of drugs is killing some Islanders, says Wendy Jones of Belle River. (File Graphic)

Consumers deserve to know what they are paying for, especially when they are sick or dying

Big pharma and the prescribers who kowtow to them are like buzzards around prey - prey that is not dead yet, just sick and dying. They are certainly going to make a killing with their new dispensing fee policy. Requiring sick and dying Islanders to refill their prescriptions every month will force many low income earners, mostly seniors, to skip doses or stop taking their medications altogether.

The cost of the 90 pills prescribed by my NP is $7.47. When you add the $12.49 dispensing fee the total cost of my pills under the old system would have been $19.96 every three months.

Under the debilitating new system instituted by pharmacists and co-operating prescribers, my medication will now cost $44.94 for a 90-day supply. Six months ago the price would have been 22 cents per tablet. That has been hiked to an astronomical 49 cents each, a rise of 123 percent just by forcing me to pick up a refill every month.

Annually, that one prescription will now cost $150 in dispensing fees and $30 for the medication. Where will sick and dying people, health insurance companies, and government programs come up with that kind of money? A jump from $80 a year to $180 for the exact same vitally needed product should be illegal. It is definitely immoral.

I call on the members of the P.E.I. legislature to stop P.E.I. pharmacists and prescribers from forcing sick and dying people to pay three times as much in dispensing fees.

I also call on our MLA’s to make sure that drug dispensers list the price of their dispensing fees prominently in-store and on all labels and receipts issued to patients. Consumers deserve to know what they are paying for especially when they are sick or dying. I also call on our legislative representatives to cap dispensing fees increases in any form.

Public hearings into the effects of pharmaceutical company policies should be held. Prescribers should be investigated to make sure they are not receiving kickbacks in any way shape or form from pharmaceutical manufacturers or distributors.

This rapacious new policy means three bottles are issued instead of one being dispensed. Three times the paper for receipts and bags is used (that’s not even talking about the plastic bags). It takes three times longer to fill a 90-day prescription.

Many patients have health care plans. Does that excuse pharmacies for their rapacious money grab? No! It’s not like they are losing money. Pharmacies are raking in profits while debilitating the public health care system and private insurance plans. We’ve got to stop them.

Our representatives in legislatures and parliaments must quit pandering to big pharma bullies who are driving sick people further and further into debt, killing them by pricing life-saving drugs too high.

Wouldn’t it save a hell of a lot of time and labour if they’d just dispense three months’ medication at a time instead of dragging the process out, repeating it three times, using three pill bottles, three paper labels, three bags, three receipts? When this round of price gouging is instituted and they are looking to further increase profits will we have to get weekly or daily refills?

What about patients who are shut-ins? People who must beg for help three times instead of once? How about the burden on patients who are mobility-challenged but still get out and about?

I’ll bet that customers waiting for prescriptions buy a whole lot of crap while they wait. I’ll bet you that’s part of the reason for bringing people into the pharmacy once a month to fill their prescriptions rather than having them come in every three or six months.

Perhaps the only prescription for us is to dispense drugs through government-run pharmaceutical outlets. The present system is killing more and more of us.

- Wendy Jones is a Belle River artist, songwriter, member of the local Women’s Institute and community activist.

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