The Manitoba Government is lifting prescription drug limits introduced amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In March, the province placed a one-month limit on prescription drugs in an effort to curb potential stockpiling of medications during COVID-19.
On Friday Manitoba health minister Cameron Friesen said those restrictions will be lifted as of May 11.
Friesen said that means those with prescriptions for long-term medications will be able to fill them as per their prescriber’s directions up to a three-month supply, if the drug is not affected by shortages.
“While this decision to restrict prescription fills to one month was necessary, we have been monitoring carefully the consequences and recognize the impact this has had on many Manitobans,” said Friesen in a release.
“As a result, our government is pleased to be removing the one-month limit now that the global and domestic drug supply is showing to be more stable.”
Prior to COVID-19, you could get a three-month supply of prescriptions drugs during a single trip to the pharmacy.
For many, reducing the prescription limit has meant three times the dispensing fees, and three times the trips to the pharmacy during a time the public is being told to stay at home.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister had hinted the move was coming Thursday.
The limits were put in place March 19 to minimize the risk of drug shortages and stop people from stockpiling medication, Friesen said Friday.
He said the move followed advice from the Canadian Pharmacists Association and Canadian Association for Pharmaceutical Distributors and Management.
Friesen said health officials were also concerned about supply because there’s also typically a high volume of drug dispensing done in late March at the end of Manitoba’s Pharmacare Program year.
Some pharmacists told Global News drug shortages have been an ongoing issue for a number of years, and the limit was warranted as COVID-19 only intensified the demand.
“There was an intense increase in demand for medications at the start of the pandemic,” Winnipeg pharmacist Ashley Ewasiuk told Global News. “Literally pharmacies could not keep up with stock. We could not order enough stock to fill the prescriptions that we were being asked to fill.”
The government is also establishing a working group with pharmacists that will look at whether some drugs should be temporarily limited in the future to 30 days due to supply shortages.
Friesen says the government is not considering pro-rating pharmacist fees if 30-day limits are reintroduced in the future.
Manitoba Liberal leader Dougald Lamont issued a statement Friday calling on the Pallister government to refund Manitobans for the doubled and tripled dispensing fees.
Health minister Cameron Friesen pointed to the universal $200 payment for all Manitoba seniors that was announced by Premier Brian Pallister earlier this week.
–With files from Marney Blunt and The Canadian Press
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