Kelowna psychiatrist Dr. Lee Rasmusen is speaking out and he plans to be among those at the rally. Patients unable to afford the medications now available in every other province in Canada simply go without Rasmusen says. He warns refusing to pay potentially causes a greater burden on the health care system. This is not a new issue. Anne Harker of Kelowna, a person living with Alzeimer's, wrote in a letter to the Vancouver Sun on August 1, 2003 of the incredible burden the drug costs are for her family...
"I am in the early stages of Alzheimer's and my husband, aged 68, has had to go to work as a Wal-Mart greeter in order to afford my medication, Aricept. My husband is a retired minister and I was a single parent for many
years, so we struggle financially. He is a diabetic.I was diagnosed at age 49 and was forced to leave my employment as a social worker. I am now 52 years old, unable to drive and unable to read or write. (A volunteer scribe with the Alzheimer Society of B.C. helped me with this letter.)
I require help to dress myself and am very limited in the ways I can contribute to looking after our home. There must be many people in this same position, but perhaps not as young as myself. We have evidence that Aricept is
crucial to the quality of life for persons diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
When I visited family in England two years ago, they noticed how much better I was doing than I had been when they'd seen me the year before because I had been taking Aricept for the intervening year. Aricept reduces the confusion and has made a huge difference in my quality of life. However, the cost is forcing my husband and I to readdress our total lifestyle because this category of medication is not included under PharmaCare's formulary.
It is unconscionable that the provincial government does not have any medication on the formulary for Alzheimer's and related dementias. Surely, officials are aware of the increase in numbers of people being diagnosed with dementia. It is so very important for our quality of life that PharmaCare fund this
medication." - Anne Harker, Vancouver Sun, Friday, August 01, 2003
Today, three years after Anne Harker's letter, the BC Government still refuses to pay for Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl. Nicole Bertand, the daughter of a woman who suffered with Alzheimer's and current first vice-president of the BC Alzheimer's Society wrote on April 13, 2006, "On the research front, B.C. is a global pacesetter. On the policy front, however, B.C.’s record is less stellar." She goes on to say that she remains hopeful the province will pay for these important drugs, but warned "...but for thousands of people, time is running out."
Time is running out and strangely enough, I expect that some of those people occupying much needed acute-care beds in Kelowna General Hospital and elsewhere around BC could have been helped if they had affordable access these important Alzheimer'sdrug treatments.