A shelf of drugs at a pharmacy in Quebec City on March 8, 2012. A new policy among pharmacists to restrict patients to a 30-day supply of their medications means some patients are having to pay dispensing fees two or three times over. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

A shelf of drugs at a pharmacy in Quebec City on March 8, 2012. A new policy among pharmacists to restrict patients to a 30-day supply of their medications means some patients are having to pay dispensing fees two or three times over. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

Pharmacists across the country have been told to restrict prescriptions to a 30-day supply due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic disrupting the supply line and threatening shortages of a variety of drugs.

But the trickle-down effect of the restrictions, showing up at pharmacy counters in the form of increased dispensing fees, is causing concern for many British Columbians who have found themselves facing unprecedented financial uncertainty, particularly seniors and those living on low income.

Gretchen Dawson is in her early 80s and resides in a senior independent living facility in Kelowna with her husband. Between the two of them, they take about 11 prescriptions.

Before the disruption of COVID-19, the pair would visit a local pharmacy every three months to refill their prescriptions, receiving a 90-day supply while paying a dispensing fee of $10 per medication, or $110.

READ MORE: Supply-line disruptions could cause Canadian drug shortage

“It’s a $10 dispensing fee for something I would normally only pay once for three months,” she told Black Press Media. “It’s costing me $20 extra every three months for each medication.”

Dawson and her husband are retired and depend on their pensions and Old Age Security. PharmaCare and other insurance providers typically don’t cover the dispensing fee on medications.

She explained to her pharmacist that the extra cost was causing serious financial issues, but was told that the regulations came from the B.C. government amid the COVID-19 crisis and there was nothing they could do to help her.

“The new ruling means they can only dispense for 30 days. But my pharmacist knows me, I have been seeing him for 27 years. I have congestive heart failure, I am not hoarding pills,” explained Dawson.

In a statement released on March 23, the Canadian Pharmacists Association said the restriction on medications is a “temporary but necessary” one.

“By appropriately managing inventory today, we are reducing the risk that a patient will not be able to access their medications tomorrow and into the future,” the association said.

Supply already an ongoing issue in Canada, heightened by the pandemic

With Canadians being told to brace for drug shortages, the federal government has created a team dedicated to addressing the issue, but it’s unclear if there are any possible solutions. Canada isn’t the only country facing the brunt of the low supply.

A large majority of pharmaceuticals, and key ingredients for drugs made elsewhere, come from China and India, according to the Canadian Pharmacists Association, but COVID-19 has disrupted operations in those countries.

That includes the shutdown of businesses and factories in China.

READ MORE: Don’t stockpile drugs, only recently expired prescriptions can be refilled: B.C. pharmacies

And just like the panic-buying of toilet paper, cleaning supplies and poultry products, a huge rush of people buying over-the-counter drugs have also shortened the supply of acetaminophen and other pills.

With no end in sight for the pandemic, it’s unclear how long a shortage on prescription drugs could last.

Additional dispensing fees could add up quickly, senior fears

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said during a news conference on Friday (April 3) that the concerns around dispensing fees will be addressed, but didn’t provide detail on what measures specifically were being taken.

“We are addressing that,” Henry said. “We’re addressing that for seniors, for people on fair Pharmacare, so that it will be taken care of for most people.”

Dawson said she doesn’t mind getting her medication 30 days at a time but admitted she is worried about the extra costs in the short term.

“The government said they are here to help seniors and give them more money, but that is a joke,” she stammered. “If I take my husband’s pills and my pills, and we have to pay a dispensing fee every 30 days that is an extra $220 every 90 days.”

Dawson asked her pharmacy if they would void the dispensing fee on the two months refills of prescriptions, citing the B.C. Pharmacy Association guideline that prescriptions can only be filled 90 days at a time, however, the pharmacist said no.

Another concern for Dawson is the fact she will have to take additional trips to public spaces in order to visit the pharmacy.

“I could stay home and have the pills delivered but they will charge me to deliver the medication,” she said.

READ MORE: B.C. health officer says homemade masks may prevent spread of COVID-19 to others



ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca
,
jen.zielinski@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Crofton Fire Department members on the scene of Twin Gables fire in February of 2020. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Citizens’ group calls for action at Crofton’s Twin Gables Motel

Crofton waterfront site called an eyesore and a nuisance property

North Cowichan is looking for public input through a survey as it updates its Master Transportation Plan. (File photo)
North Cowichan looking for public input on transportation

Online survey to be held until April 22

West Shore RCMP arrested a 42-year-old man April 11 following numerous reports of someone firing a rifle in a Malahat campground. (Courtesy of West Shore RCMP)
West Shore RCMP arrest man after shots fired at Malahat campground

Police received numerous reports of a man firing a rifle outside his camper trailer

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising five years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship in the world. Photo provided and colourized by Jiri Ferdinand.
QUIZ: How much do you know about the world’s most famous shipwreck?

Titanic sank 109 years ago today, after hitting an iceberg

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Two men were seen removing red dresses alongside the Island Highway in Oyster Bay. (Submitted photo)
Two men filmed removing red dresses from trees on highway near Ladysmith

Activists hung the dresses to raise awareness for Vancouver Island’s Murdered/Missing Women & Girls

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

RCMP on scene yesterday at the altercation at the trailer park. (Submitted photo)
Violent altercation at Port Hardy trailer park sends one to hospital

Police say man confronted another over airsoft shooting, then was attacked with a weapon

John Albert Buchanan was found guilty of manslaughter in the 2017 death of Richard Sitar. Pictured here, Buchanan walking to the court in Nanaimo last year. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Six years including time served for Nanaimo man in bludgeoning death

John Albert Buchanan sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo for death of Richard Sitar

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Most Read