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N.B. College of Pharmacists slams province for reversal of 30-day prescription renewal directive

There has been mixed reaction to the New Brunswick government's decision to reverse a directive by the New Brunswick College of Pharmacists to limit prescription refills to 30 days because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There has been mixed reaction to the New Brunswick government's decision to reverse a directive by the New Brunswick College of Pharmacists to limit prescription refills to 30 days because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Canadian Press

The reaction is mixed to the province’s decision to reverse a directive by the New Brunswick College of Pharmacists to temporarily restrict prescription refills to 30 days.

“We are taking this action to ensure that our vulnerable population is not put in a position where they have to choose among paying for their medication, buying groceries, or paying their rent,” Premier Blaine Higgs said Thursday, adding the decision was a difficult one but the right one.

READ MORE: N.S., N.B. pharmacies restrict medication fills to avoid shortages during COVID-19

College registrar Sam Lanctin said in a statement: “We are gravely disappointed in this decision. … (Thursday’s) political decision may have severe ramifications down the road.”

Lanctin added the problem of drug shortages won’t go away by ignoring warnings from manufacturers and distributors.

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The original restrictions were put in place in mid-March as COVID-19 began to make its way into the Maritimes.

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Meanwhile, a group representing seniors in the province was elated by the news.

“I am very pleased with the outcome,” said Cecile Cassista, executive director of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents Rights.

“I was delighted for the people it impacted,” she said, adding some people were looking at paying an extra $1,200 12 per year following the initial directive.

In the end, Cassista doesn’t feel reversing the decision will result in a negative impact on drug supplies.

“I don’t believe that there will be a shortage,” she said. “And the premier has indicated (on Thursday) that they will be taking a look at this program as it unfolds.”

Click to play video 'Coronavirus outbreak: No new COVID-19 cases in New Brunswick' Coronavirus outbreak: No new COVID-19 cases in New Brunswick
Coronavirus outbreak: No new COVID-19 cases in New Brunswick

The College of Pharmacists takes a different approach.

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“It doesn’t take much to disrupt a supply chain and limiting supplies in the short term was and still is the right thing to do,” Lanctin said. “We are especially concerned with ongoing issues in India and China, where many of the ingredients for medications are sourced.”

Lanctin says New Brunswickers can still help maintain the drug supply, adding those seeking prescriptions can “maintain 30-day refills for the time being if this is a valid option for them. We would encourage them to do so to help during this unprecedented COVID-19 crisis.”

New Brunswick is the first province in Canada to reverse the 30-day refill directive.