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October 31, 2008
For immediate release

Minister Currie Calls on New Health Minister to Support Catastrophic Drug Strategy

Social Services and Seniors

Prince Edward Island’s Minister of Health, Social Services and Seniors is urging the new federal health minister to partner with the provinces and territories in creating a national catastrophic drug strategy.

Minister Doug Currie and his counterparts in other provinces have been lobbying Ottawa to cover the cost of expensive drugs for rare, life-threatening diseases, as well as essential daily medications for people with fixed budgets.

“We are challenged as a province as we respond to requests from Islanders for coverage of new drugs that aren’t covered by the drug programs. These are very difficult decisions and I am committed to lobbying the federal government for leadership on this issue,” said Minister Currie.

Minister Currie said he is confident the new federal health minister, Leona Aglukkaq, will work with the provinces and territories in creating a solution for all Canadians.

“Minister Aglukkaq was at the provincial-territorial table and she clearly understands the real issues facing the provinces,” he said.

A provincial and territorial working group expects to have a draft strategy complete by the end of December to provide Canadians with coverage for expensive drugs for rare diseases. The group wants to create a secretariat that would identify expensive drugs for potential coverage and negotiate purchasing agreements with manufacturers. The proposed strategy is estimated to come with an annual price tag of up to $200 million, of which PEI’s yearly share would be between $750,000 and $1 million.

Fewer than 550 Canadians would require coverage for expensive drugs under the proposed strategy.

Catastrophic drug coverage and expensive drugs for rare diseases are two priorities of the broader National Pharmaceuticals Strategy that the provinces and territories have been working on over the past several years to improve access to drugs for all Canadians. The previous Conservative government was not prepared to participate with the provinces and territories by providing funding, making it difficult to develop a strategy.

As part of the government’s ongoing efforts to improve PEI’s drug coverage programs, Minister Currie invited Ontario's assistant deputy minister of health, Helen Stevenson, to Charlottetown. She met today with his staff to look at ways that Prince Edward Island can make enhancements to its provincial drug programs. Stevenson is responsible for Ontario’s drug programs and is well-known for revamping that province’s approach to drug programs.

Media Contact: Stefanie Arduini
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