March 2019: OHIP+ Updates/Probiotics

The Rural Pharmacist: OHIP+ Updates, Vaccines & Probiotics

-Henry Tempelman, Pharmacist & Owner

The annual flu shot was worth the poke and pinching pain this year! Canadian researchers have determined that this year’s vaccine was a very impressive match to this year’s dominant strain - H1N1. Those who received their annual flu shot had their risk reduced by approximately 72% - meaning that if there were 10 cases of influenza in unvaccinated people the number of cases would have been reduced to just 3 people if they were all vaccinated. That’s a significant difference, especially when extrapolating out to thousands of people. It’s easy to understand why reducing the risk of influenza with the annual vaccine greatly reduces the stress on the public health system.  This year’s vaccine was much more successful than last year, which was only about 20% effective against last year’s dominant strain H3N2. Great job to all those who protected themselves and others by getting vaccinated this year! And if you didn’t get around to it this year.. there’s always next year! ;) 

            Sticking with the pinching pokes, a few of the vaccines that were on a long-term manufacturer backorder are now available again.  Shingrix, the new shingles vaccine with a higher efficacy rate than Zostavax, is now available. Havrix (Hepatitis A) and Engerix B (Hepatitis B) are available. The Twinrix  (Hep A&B) adult vaccine is still on a manufacturer backorder, however, we are stocked with the Twinrix Jr vaccine, the pediatric dose. If necessary, two Twinrix Jr vaccines can be administered in place of one Twinrix adult vaccine. Many of these vaccines have been on manufacturer backorder for multiple months, which has thrown some individual vaccine schedules off track. We’ve contacted our waitlist for these vaccines at this time, but if you have any questions please give us a call. All of these vaccines require a prescription and can be conveniently administered in store by our pharmacist – no appointment necessary!

            Premier Doug Ford will be looking to save $250 million a year when he implements the changes to OHIP+ this month, which previously covered prescription medications for people under 25 years of age. Under the new OHIP+ program, pharmacies are required to bill a patient’s private insurance as the “first” payor, and for those children that don’t have private insurance then OHIP+ will step in and cover their medications as they have been since the initial implementation of the program. This means that onus is on the both the pharmacy, to ask and gather private insurance information as prescriptions are being filled, and the patient/family, to provide this information prior to the prescription being filled. In the end, people under 25 years of age will continue to have coverage for their prescriptions one way or another, so that they will continue to have access to their necessary medication.  The only losers here are the private insurance companies, who were winning since January 1st, 2018 when OHIP+ was initially implemented. They continued to collect their comfy insurance premiums while allowing OHIP+ to cover their expenses in paying for prescription medications in this patient population. I’m sure these lower expenses lead to some high profits which helped keep the lights on, but hey.. I’m no electrician. 

            Now, as we near the end of the winter season we hope that the sniffles, sneezes and hacking coughs are near the end.  Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for a family or single person to go through multiple courses of antibiotics in a season, whether treating the same lingering infection or different infections. With a course of antibiotics our healthy gut flora can be compromised which can have an effect on our regular digestive processes, usually leading to symptoms of diarrhea but also possibly constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, or baby colic. Probiotics, which are living healthy bacteria, can be important in resolving these symptoms by normalizing unbalanced gut flora. There are many different types of probiotics with different strains of bacteria that are effective for different indications. With certain antibiotics, I recommend taking a probiotic during the course as long as the probiotic and antibiotic are administered separately by a couple hours. Talk to our pharmacists if you’re wondering if a probiotic is right for you, and if so.. which one?