The Canadian Council for the Blind is stepping up its campaign to urge the NDP to fund the blindness drug Lucentis.
Nova Scotia is the only province in Canada that does not fund Lucentis, which has been shown to treat a degenerative eye condition.
A CCB advertising campaign says the government’s refusal to fund the drug has left people three options: “Go blind, go bankrupt or go away.”
Debert resident Betty Jennings said Thursday both her parents, now in their 70s, need Lucentis but may have to sell their house and move to Alberta to cover the $2,000-per-injection cost.
Health Minister Maureen MacDonald said she’s working to find a way to make Lucentis available. But she said spending the money —$4.5 million this year, $10 million annually within three years — would mean cuts elsewhere in her department.
“The revenue of our province is flat, we’re taking in less revenue than we’re spending. So I don’t have that surplus to reach into to expand drug coverage,” she said.
The CCB asserts the government will actually save money in the long term through reduced costs from blindness-related injuries, but MacDonald said that doesn’t help her now.
“Every day I meet with groups who tell me that if I could spend money on their requests now they would save the health-care system money down the road. That doesn’t put money in my pocket now,” she said.
Opposition parties have been hammering away at the NDP on Lucentis during question period, noting the NDP lobbied for the drug’s funding when in opposition.
Premier Darrell Dexter responded Thursday to a question from Tory Leader Karen Casey by noting she did not approve the drug when she was health minister, which sparked shouts of anger from some Tory MLAs.
Casey said the science has become clearer on Lucentis since the Progressive Conservatives were in office.
Correction - May 7, 2010, 11:34 a.m. EST: A previous version of this story contained incorrectly identified the Canadian Council for the Blind in the body of this story. It has since been corrected.