N.S. affordable prescription drug program expanding

A Nova Scotia prescription drug program for people without health plans is expanding.

Genrus United is a membership-based buying group headquartered in Bible Hill, N.S.

CEO Paul Graham said the program makes prescription drugs more affordable for people who have to pay out of pocket.

He said the company is expanding into New Brunswick and is poised to expand to cover other health services, such as dental, vision and physiotherapy.

"These are people that work full or part-time, work in the gig economy or self-employed and just do not have access to either pharmacare or a health benefits plan," he said.

The program was founded by Graham and four other Nova Scotians who had worked in the pharmaceutical industry and saw the need for an affordable drug program.

"The fastest growing group of Canadians today are people without drug coverage," said Graham.

Yvonne LeBlanc-Smith/CBC

Genrus United was launched in January 2018 and now has more than 1,000 members.

Graham said people questioned the program at the beginning.

"It's too good to be true," said Graham of what he heard from members of the public.

"How can you do this? Why hasn't someone else done it? Are you from Toronto? Are you from away? Are you from China? Are you selling Chinese drugs? All of those questions we've heard multiple times."

Members pay $7.95 a month or $79 annually, plus a small co-pay.

"What we're saying is you join us and we leverage the same cap, we access the same cap as the insurance or pharmacare customers do, and that's how it works," he said.

'A very positive impact'

The savings can be as much as 60 to 80 per cent, said Graham.

Fifteen independent pharmacies are signed on across the province, including the Black Diamond Pharmacies in Glace Bay and New Waterford.

Glace Bay pharmacist Jody Pilling said close to 50 of his patients are Genrus United members.

He said some could not afford to buy all the different drugs they were prescribed.

"The thing we see the most is a patient on a basket of medications — three, four, five medications," said Pilling.

"This helps patients take their medication, helps their compliance, improve their overall health, which can do wonders for community... It just has a very positive impact on their lives."

The program covers 150 medications, mostly for chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, blood pressure and cholesterol.

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