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Pharmacare to stop funding diabetes drug in B.C. this week

Survey finds majority of doctors disagreed with the decision

VANCOUVER - A majority of doctors in B.C. disagree with B.C. Pharmacare’s decision to stop funding a diabetes drug, and many fear the switch could cause harm to patients, according to a survey by the Canadian Heart Research Centre.

Last summer, the provincial government quietly announced it was dropping one of the drugs it had covered for people with diabetes. That plan comes into effect on Thursday.

The drug, sitagliptin (Januvia) is one of a number of drugs within a class known as DPP-4 inhibitors. Patients taking these medications will need to switch to one of the other two DPP-4 inhibitors that are covered by BC Pharmacare or pay out of their own pockets.

The results of the survey, released Tuesday, suggest 85 per cent of doctors believe drug substitution on economic grounds is not in the interest of the patients. It also found that 61 per cent of doctors disagreed with B.C. Pharmacare’s decision not to cover the drugs.

About half of the respondents said they were worried that patients may stop taking their medication due to the coverage change, according to the survey, which could result in the loss of glycemic control.

Sixty nine per cent of physicians surveyed said patients who are well controlled on sitagliptin (Januvia) or sitagliptin/metformin fixed dose combination should have been excluded from the coverage change.

The BC Voice survey was completed by 332 physicians in B.C. between November and December for the Canadian Heart Research Centre. BC Voice is a steering committee of eight physicians, five of whom practise in B.C.