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Pharmacists in Ontario face cutbacks
May 21st, 2012
TORONTO – The Ontario government is consulting with pharmacy industry stakeholders on achieving $55 million (Canadian) in savings in drug spending, according to the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores (CACDS).
The government initially announced a flat payment reduction from 25% to 20% of brand-name equivalents for the top 10 generic drugs. However, subsequent consultations are ongoing as to how best to deliver the government savings target, said CACDS director of communications Sara Feldman.
The Ontario Pharmacists' Association (OPA) has denounced an across-the-board price cut, pointing out that the province already has the lowest generic drug prices in Canada.
At the same time, OPA noted, Ontario pharmacists aren't allowed to provide the same services as their counterparts in most other provinces, as well as in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Expanding the services that pharmacists provide to patients could yield over $130 million in health system savings per year while dramatically improving health care accessibility for many Ontarians, according to OPA. In the public and among health care experts, there's strong support for broadening pharmacist-provided health care services, and increased use of pharmacists as primary care providers is already occurring in many other provinces, the association said.
Darryl Moore, chairman of OPA, has described Ontario's reduction plan as "a very surprising and shortsighted proposal." Legislation passed by the provincial government in 2009 would widen the scope of pharmacist services, with the promise of improving patient outcomes, reducing hospital emergency room visits and easing the burden on primary care doctors, yet that measure hasn't been implemented, he explained.
"Enabling pharmacists to use their skills to deliver more health care services to Ontarians and achieve the long-term objectives of a more efficient system could save much more than the proposed $55 million from generic drug price cuts and would avoid the significant strain such cuts place on drug supply and pharmacy operations," Moore commented late last month in criticizing the proposed reduction.
Since 2010 the government has obtained almost $500 million in savings from the pharmacy sector, which continues to struggle with reimbursement, according to OPA.