WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is lifting the one-month limit on prescription refills beginning on Monday, May 11.
Health Minister Cameron Friesen made the announcement at a news conference on Friday.
According to the province, Manitobans with prescriptions for long-term medications will be able to fill them as per their prescriber’s direction, including up to a three-month supply – as long as the medication isn’t impacted by shortages.
Back in March, when Manitoba put the state of emergency into effect, prescription renewals were limited to a one-month supply due to supply chain concerns.
Manitoba put these refill limitations in place on March 19 in order to minimize the risk of drug shortages and stop people from stockpiling. The end of Manitoba’s Pharmacare Program year is late March, which the province said is typically a time for a high volume of dispensing.
“While that decision we made was necessary, it had an impact on Manitobans,” Friesen said.
Friesen said the situation has changed a lot since March.
“At this time the evidence is pointing to the fact that the situation is stabilizing. We have a better understanding now of the drug supply in Manitoba, in Canada, and around the world,” he said.
“We know that some manufacturers in China who ceased or slowed production have come back online and we know that the global distribution issue has proven to be more intact than was previously expected.”
Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living is working with pharmacists in the province to convey notification of these changes and provide the necessary information.
The minister noted that Health Canada still monitors and lists drugs that are in short supply. Beginning on Monday, the province will use this list to inform its decisions on which drugs remain limited to a one-month fill in Manitoba.
Friesen described this as a balancing act between “fairness,” along with “evidence-based decision making” and “acting to safeguard drug supply.”
The minister noted it hasn’t been easy for some Manitobans to pay in some cases triple the dispensing fees, especially at a time when people have been directed to stay home and when some Manitobans have seen an interruption in their ability to make money. Earlier this week the premier said the province is working on a plan to waive these fees.
DRUG SHORTAGE WORKING GROUP
The minister also announced the creation of a time-limited, COVID-19 drug shortage working group, made up of government officials and representatives from Pharmacists Manitoba and the College of Pharmacists of Manitoba.
The role of the group will be to survey and monitor drug availability in Manitoba and Canada, in order to come up with solutions to ongoing drug shortages. It will also solicit input and proposals from industry, stakeholder groups and health-related associations to help make decisions.
Friesen reminded any Manitobans who have experienced a significant change in income due to the pandemic, to have their Pharmacare deductible reviewed, as it is determined based on an income declared on tax information from two years before the current fiscal year.
Manitobans can estimate their income for the current year which will set a new deductible for the same year. Once a person files their income taxes, the projected income is compared to an actual income and the difference is reconciled.
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