Government and pharmacists

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Having read the letter to the editor “Provincial government misses the point” (Todd Squires), I am compelled to respond.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal’s decision upholds the requirement that pharmacies must provide 120 days’ notice to the provincial government of their intention to opt out of the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program. This is a positive decision and a victory for the beneficiaries of the program.

The decision reinforces the importance of having regulations in place that protect the interest of the province’s most vulnerable residents.

In 2011, the provincial government introduced regulations that included pharmacies providing 120 days’ notice to the minister of Health and Community Services and posting a sign in their pharmacy signalling their intent to leave the program. The court agreed that these regulations should remain in place.  

The court did not agree with the regulation requiring the pharmacy to send individual notification to all clients of the pharmacy regarding their intent to opt out of the program.

If a pharmacy decides to opt out of the program, the 120-day notice provides us with the ability to work with clients and explore alternate arrangements to ensure they receive their medications.

Council of Independent Community Pharmacy Owners — CIPCO — members are not the only pharmacies in the province. In fact, the association only represents about 60 of the almost 200 pharmacies. If a pharmacy opts out of the program, clients do have options that will not require them to pay the full cost of their medications up front, such as having their prescriptions transferred to other pharmacies.

We have worked closely with the Pharmacists’ Association of Newfoundland and Labrador to secure an agreement that will see the provincial

government reinvest approximately

$37 million to support all pharmacies over the course of the four-year term. These reinvestments include certain cognitive services, which align with the conclusions of Wade Locke’s report.

It would be disappointing if a pharmacy decides to opt out of the provincial drug program and charge senior citizens and people with low incomes up front — individuals who may not have the money to pay for their medications. The court acknowledged this point in their decision.

Our greatest priority is to ensure that the people of our province who rely on the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program can access their medications without undue hardship.

In upholding the majority of these regulations, the court has allowed us to maintain our 120-day notice period so that we are best positioned to ensure this occurs.

Susan Sullivan

minister of Health and Community Services

MHA, Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Court, Community Services, Association of Newfoundland and Labrador

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