The Alberta government's plan to lift a 30-day limit on supplies of prescription drugs is being welcomed by some pharmacists, but some drugs may still be restricted due to low supplies.
On June 15, pharmacists will be able to dispense up to a 100-day supply for drugs that are no longer considered to be affected by shortages.
Nicole Schettler, a pharmacist with Remedy’sRX in St. Albert, said they are happy the 30-day limit is being lifted, but some drugs are in short supply, such as Ventolin, which is used to treat conditions like asthma.
“There’s still a good 10-page list of drugs that are in high demand and low supplies. We are still being asked to restrict day supply on those items,” Schettler said.
The 30-day restrictions were recommended to pharmacists by the government to handle critical drug supply issues that were occurring in Alberta and around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These restrictions were put in place to ensure pharmacies could supply people with the prescriptions they needed and to discourage stockpiling of drugs.
Sun Ma, a senior and former resident of St. Albert, is also happy the restrictions are being lifted but is puzzled as to why there were restrictions in the first place.
“They say that they don't want anyone hoarding pills but that is very, very weak. How can you really hoard pills when you’ve got a prescription that only goes for three months? You can’t hoard more than the prescription says,” Ma said.
The 30-day limit on prescriptions was difficult for some seniors, as it meant they would be out in public more frequently. More frequent outings meant more frequent risks.
“Once you're in there, you're walking among a bunch of people that are wearing a face mask but there's none of (those) two-metre separations,” said Ma. “To me, it's a little bit about inconvenience, and also (a) little bit of pressure about the COVID-19, due to my age.”
Supply levels have stabilized but there are still supply pressures for certain drugs. Pharmacists are being asked to use their professional judgement and to refer to the drug shortage list on the Alberta Blue Cross website.
Prescription drugs that are on the drug shortage list will continue to have an $8 maximum copayment for anyone on the government-sponsored drug plan. Government-sponsored drug plan members will pay the usual rate of $25 maximum copayment for drugs that are no longer on the shortage list.
The government is encouraging people to ask their pharmacists about the status of specific drugs. If there is evidence that a drug is being stockpiled or that supply is short, limitations could be reintroduced.
Schettler is expecting Monday to be a busy day for pharmacies and has booked extra help.
“I would encourage anybody who ... wants to refill their medications to call their pharmacy Monday or Tuesday. Give them a couple of days to get everything ready,” Schettler said.
Ma was supposed to get a prescription filled last week but will be waiting until Monday so he can get the three-month prescription.
“I have a feeling that there's been a lot of people who have been delaying getting their prescriptions – hoping that the restriction will be lifted,” said Schettler. “I think Monday is going to be a crazy day.”