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Survey says many BC patients are worse off after medication switches

Last Updated Apr 20, 2017 at 9:43 pm PDT

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Summary

The Reference Drug Program has forced thousands to give up their usual prescription drugs

Eighty per cent of respondents say they have new side-effects thanks to the drugs they now must take under Pharmacare

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Many British Columbians dealing with chronic conditions are suffering from worsening symptoms and new side-effects, according to a new survey.

The study was commissioned by the Better Pharmacare Coalition which is tracking the ramifications of the expansion of a Pharmacare drug policy that took full effect in December.

The Reference Drug Program has forced thousands of BC patients to switch medications. It was launched in 1995, but in June of 2016, it was expanded to include three classes of drugs: Angiotensin Receptor Blocker (reduces high blood pressure), Proton Pump Inhibitor (treats heartburn), and Statin (lowers cholesterol).

The program is designed to reduce the amount of money the government spends on drug prescriptions covered by Pharmacare.

The coalition’s survey heard from 150 people affected by the changes. About 80 per cent of respondents reported new or different side effects, including stomach upset and heartburn.

Two thirds of respondents revealed that their physical symptoms became worse since the switch in medication.

Roughly half of the patients say they have chosen to continue to take the medication that is no longer covered by Pharmacare, and incurring the expenses.

Patient comments included “I have to make a decision between medications and groceries” and “My food bank visits have increased.”

“People have had to choose between the medication that works or living with new side-effects or dealing with a disease that is no long manageable,” says coalition executive director Rennie Hoffman.

He predicts the attempt to save money will backfire for the government, because affected patients will be seeking even more treatment.

“The ramifications of these changes show up in other parts of the health care system to pay for doctors, hospital bills and emergency wards.”

Hoffman says it’s important to let the government know about the impacts, as he believes more drugs are pegged to be included in the Reference Drug Program in the future.