BIBLE HILL, N.S. — A Bible Hill-based pharma company has launched Canada’s first-ever private pharmacare program to help people who cannot afford drug costs.
Genrus United, headquartered on Pictou Road teamed up with Nova Scotia pharmacies starting in early 2018 to launch an affordable drug program of just $7.95 per month. The program is currently open to any Nova Scotian needing it, regardless of medical history.
“We’re really hoping there is some sort of national pharmacare program; the people we represent are desperate and need this service,” said Genrus CEO Paul Graham. “It’s really trying to solve a national problem at the community level.”
Medicines covered under the pharmacare program include drugs for treating blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, some mental health medications and birth control. Medicines such as anti-cancer drugs or antibiotics are not included under the program.
So far, Genrus has 16 partner pharmacies signed up across Nova Scotia from Yarmouth to Cape Breton. Another five drugstores in New Brunswick are signed up and Genrus aims to expand its pharmacare network all over Atlantic Canada and into provinces from coast to coast.
The very first drugstore signed up was Poulain’s PharmaChoice in Stellarton. The store signed up when the test phase began in January 2018.
There, pharmacist Jack Davies said many patients often “ration out” their medications to make them last longer. They often end up in hospital as a result, by not taking medications as prescribed.
But Davies said fewer patients are being sent to hospital and falling through the cracks, as they can now afford to take their medicines properly.
“When you have someone standing in front of you and crying because they can now afford their medications, it’s pretty impactful,” said Davies. “There’s a great feeling of satisfaction. There’s a great feeling of pride.”
In Truro, pharmacist Deborah Ellis said between 130 and 150 of her patients were registered under the Genrus insurance plan.
Before West End Family Pharma Choice joined the Genrus network, Ellis said she sometimes let patients who couldn’t afford medications put payments on hold until month’s end.
“We’re seeing more clients we really didn’t realize are struggling and they’re not always low-income,” said Ellis, who co-owns Pharma Choice. “Sometimes, they’re middle class families who cannot afford the benefit plans being offered,” by their workplaces.
If a family member is diagnosed with a condition like diabetes, controlling it properly can mean taking several different medications. It also means a sudden new and large cost for those people buying them.
Ellis said helping such people out is “definitely a good feeling.”
All drugs covered under the program are at this point generic.
A full list of participating pharmacies can be found at http://genrusunited.ca/service-areas/.