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Glen Abernethy: Pharmaceutical Action Plan

Mr. Speaker, an equitable and sustainable health care system is one of the priorities of the 17th Assembly. One way we can support this priority is by improving the management of pharmaceuticals.

Mr. Speaker, to date, provincial and territorial governments have each made significant efforts to address the challenges and manage pharmaceuticals in a way that maximizes patient health outcomes while contributing to system sustainability.

Under the leadership of Canada’s Premiers, provincial and territorial governments have demonstrated their commitment to working together to produce significant results that benefit patients and the healthcare system. In particular, the establishment of the Pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance has already resulted in lower prices on over 40 brand name drugs.

While pharmaceuticals are not a significant cost to the NWT health system compared to other jurisdictions in Canada, we recognize the ongoing importance of this issue and the Department of Health and Social Services continues to pursue opportunities to improve the management of pharmaceuticals.

The Department is finalizing a draft NWT Pharmaceutical Action Plan to address our management of pharmaceuticals using an integrated and collaborative approach. The challenges and opportunities that we face relate to three key areas: Access; Sustainability; and Safety and Appropriate Use.
Elements of the Action Plan will include: a shared procurement model for prescription drugs for all Authorities; expansion of the scope of practice for pharmacists; and updating an agreement with the NWT Pharmaceutical Association relating to pharmaceuticals dispensed for individuals registered on GNWT programs such as Extended Health Benefits and Métis Health Benefits.

Mr. Speaker, for NWT residents, access to pharmaceuticals is not necessarily by need or ability to pay. Coverage for necessary pharmaceuticals outside of a hospital setting is currently determined by age, ethnicity, income, specified disease conditions or whether an employer provides supplementary drug benefits. In some cases, individuals have chosen to purchase private insurance to ensure they have coverage.

Shared procurement of drugs through the services of a national drug group purchasing organization by most of the Health and Social Services Authorities has lowered drug costs for our system. Procurement can be further improved and coordinated through the establishment of an integrated territorial health and social services authority.

The Department of Finance’s Program Review Office is completing a review of pharmaceutical management to assess the current state of pharmaceutical products of purchasing, coverage, and regulation in the NWT and provide comparisons to other jurisdictions and best practices across Canada.

The Department is also working with the NWT Pharmaceutical Association to decrease harm from controlled drugs and substances. A Controlled Substance Steering Committee, which includes representation from the RCMP, the NWT Pharmaceutical Association, clinicians, and a member of the public, was established last year.

Prescription drug monitoring is an important component of decreasing the harm caused by controlled substances and will help to identify unusual patterns and provide peer-based educational opportunities. Recent changes to the Pharmacy Act set the stage for developing a prescription drug monitoring program, and the Department is beginning that work.

In addition, the Department established a steering committee, in consultation with the NWT Pharmaceutical Association, to explore expanding the scope of practice for pharmacists in the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, provincial and territorial Ministers of Health continue the dialogue about how to improve pharmaceutical coverage while controlling costs. Next week, I will attend a National Pharmacare Round table convened by the Ontario Health Minister. The Roundtable will bring together leading health care experts and decision-makers from across Canada. We can benefit from their advice and better understand the research, options, costs and benefits underpinning potential national pharmacare models.

All of these initiatives will support the development of our Pharmaceutical Action Plan. Mr. Speaker, I look forward to working with Standing Committee as we move toward the finalization and implementation of a Pharmaceutical Action Plan that will benefit all residents of the Northwest Territories.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.