AMHERST – Rubin Millard is tired of being treated like a second-class citizen.
The 69-year-old Oxford man and his wife, Deborah, have been fighting the provincial pharmacare program for several months because it refuses to fund a drug he believes is keeping him alive.
“I’ve worked my whole life, I’ve paid my taxes and now I’m a senior who feels like a second-class citizen,” Millard said. “I’ve had three heart attacks and have five stents and they won’t pay for the drug I need so I don’t have another heart attack and die.”
Xarelto was prescribed by heart specialist Dr. Scott Bowen after his last heart attack and his family doctor, Dr. Peter Blaikie of Pugwash, has written at least two letters to the pharmacare program supporting Millard. Millard and his wife went on the pharmacare program in September when she retired as the librarian in Oxford and they lost her health plan. That’s when they discovered pharmacare won’t cover the drug.
It cost $109 for a month’s supply of the drug.
Cumberland North MLA and PC health critic Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin said it’s a situation that lacks common sense.
“A senior shouldn’t have to go through this to get the proper medication, especially when their doctor recommended it in written letters that this drug is best for his health,” Smith-McCrossin said. “He’s worked hard his entire life and paid his share of taxes. He gives back to the community as a volunteer throughout countless hours of work and this is the way he’s treated.”
Smith-McCrossin said it’s unfair to expect Millard to go off Xarelto and back on Warfarin just to prove its ineffectiveness.
“To me there’s no common sense,” she said. “His situation is just like many other seniors in this province who aren’t being treated fairly by this government and this program. We need to change that.”
She said the Health and Wellness Department is not looking at the big picture and is not listening to the doctors who know what’s best for their patients.
Millard was on Warfarin before and believes it wasn’t as good as Xarelto because he would still have angina pain and with the new drug he doesn’t have to travel to Amherst as much to have his blood tested as frequently - something he said has to come with a financial cost to the provincial health care program.
He’s also concerned that it takes weeks or months to get into see his family doctor – all the time taking the risk of having another heart attack because he would no longer be on the drug his doctor feels is best for his health.
“I was on Warfarin for more than a year and the doctor said it wasn’t working so he switched me to Xarelto,” he said.
Tracy Barron from Health and Wellness said Xarleto is covered under provincial pharmacare programs based on specific criteria as recommended by an independent expert advisory committee that is part of the national common drug review process.
“Xarelto, like other drugs, was reviewed through this process. The expert committee recommended that public drug programs fund Xarelto based on specific criteria,” she said in an email. “If a beneficiary meets the criteria, they will be approved for funding. The criteria includes covering Xarelto when Warfarin is not an option.”
She said Nova Scotia’s coverage is consistent with other jurisdictions in Canada.