Improving Access To Drugs And Pharmacy Services
Today marks one year since the introduction of significant reforms to the Ontario Public Drug Program. After meeting projected savings of about $500 million per year through reforms made to the provincial drug system, the government is reinvesting these savings directly into the health care system.
Ontarians are gaining new access to valuable cancer drugs, enjoying expanded patient services, experiencing improved access to pharmacists in rural and remote regions, and receiving more value for their health care dollar thanks to these reforms.
New Drugs Added
Savings realized from reduced generic drug prices were used by the government to provide funding for 15 new drugs - four new cancer drugs and 11 new brand name drugs. A drug is added to formulary after it has been recommended by the Committee to Evaluate Drugs as a safe, cost-effective treatment for ODB recipients (which include seniors and people receiving social assistance).
Expanded MedsCheck Program
The successful MedsCheck program - which provides patients with chronic conditions who take three or more prescription drugs an annual one-one-one consultation with a pharmacist - has been expanded. The program now includes:
- Initial and follow-up medication reviews for all Ontarians diagnosed with diabetes
- Annual medication analyses and quarterly reviews for long-term care home residents
- At-home in-depth review of medications for home-bound patients who have difficulty travelling to their local pharmacy and are taking three or more medications (such as frail or elderly people with chronic conditions).
About 120,000 of these MedsCheck consultations have taken place since these expanded services launched in September 2010.
Increasing Access To Pharmacists
Seniors and Ontario Drug Benefit recipients now have more access to free services from their local pharmacist to ensure they are using their medications safely and effectively.
Pharmacists (working with prescribers such as doctors and nurse practitioners) are enhancing patient care by delivering more services when a prescription is filled. This includes:
- Providing advice to prevent drug or allergic reactions from medications
- Making recommendations to improve patient health outcomes - such as dosage levels or reminding patients about when and how to take their medications.
In August, pharmacists will also offer patients free appointment-based services, including:
- An in-depth assessment on how to better-manage a chronic disease like diabetes or asthma
- Training on how to effectively use devices like blood pressure monitors and asthma peak flow meters at home
- Supports to quit smoking.
Evidence Building Program for Cancer Drugs
In Ontario, decisions about publicly funded drugs are made based on the best available clinical evidence. In rare situations, coverage for certain cancer drugs has not been available because clinical benefits have not yet been clearly established. Through the Evidence Building Program (EBP), funding will be provided for specific cancer drugs where emerging evidence suggests strong promise to benefit patients.
The EBP will allow conditional expanded coverage beyond the current criteria, for cancer drugs that have already been approved by the ministry's Committee to Evaluate Drugs (CED) - a committee comprising medical experts. After a period of time and the gathering of real world data and evidence, the CED and the CED/Cancer Care Ontario subcommittee will be able to provide advice to the Executive Officer to inform future funding decisions.
On May 12, 2011, the use of Herceptin, in conjunction with chemotherapy, to treat breast tumours of less than or equal to one centimetre in women who are node negative and HER2 positive, was approved as the first drug in the Evidence Building Program.
Support For Rural Pharmacies
Ontario is supporting rural pharmacies - to ensure people in these communities have access to drugs and pharmacy services - by increasing dispensing fees by up to $5 per prescription filled. The different dispensing fees are based on location in rural and remote areas, and the distance between pharmacies.