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Some B.C. pharmacies to remove 30-day prescription refill limit as drug-supply fears ease

Some pharmacies in B.C. have lifted a 30-day limit on prescription refills that led to concerns over an increased number of dispensing fees.

Most pharmacies across the country introduced the limit — lowered from the usual 90-day refill term — last month due to a potential risk of drug shortages, after a surge in demand and drop in supply.

However, with dispensing fees kept the same, it meant many people were paying three times the amount for their medication — leading to particular concern for seniors, who can often have several prescriptions to fill.

Dispensing fees can range from about $4 to $15 per prescription, depending on the pharmacy and which province a patient lives in.

The B.C. Pharmacy Association announced on Monday that the supply problems seen in mid-March are easing and “the situation is balancing.”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there had been a drop in supply for precursor chemicals for medications, many of which are produced in China and India, but now the global supply chain is coming back on line.

The association says some pharmacies are now able to dispense 90-day supplies of medications again but others may still be facing challenges, so it is up to pharmacists to use their professional judgment in providing supplies longer than 30 days.

Minister of Health Adrian Dix said the limits on refills wasn’t mandated by the B.C. government but public concerns over cost are being looked into.

Dix acknowledged there had been an increase in demand for prescriptions.

“Early on, especially in March, we saw a little bit with prescriptions what we saw with groceries,” he said Wednesday.

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.

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