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Ontario pharmacists: Generics pricing short-sighted
January 21st, 2013
TORONTO – Ontario pharmacists have given a thumbs-down to Canada's plan to hold down pricing for some common generic drugs.
The Ontario Pharmacists' Association said late Friday it's disappointed that, as part of a program by Canada's Council of Federation, Ontario will join other provinces in setting price points for six popular generic medications.
Under the plan, provinces and territories will pay 18% of the price of the equivalent brand-name drugs for atorvastatin, ramipril, venlafaxine, amlodipine, omeprazole and rabeprazole, starting April 1. They currently pay 25% to 40% of the branded prices.
Although the program's economic impact on community pharmacies remains uncertain at this time, the Ontario Pharmacists' Association noted that without reinvestment of the savings into more pharmacy-based services, pharmacist patient care may be negatively affected.
"We were surprised by [the Jan. 18] announcement, as the continued erosion of pharmacy revenues seriously affects pharmacists' ability to provide the health care services allowed under our newly expanded scope of practice, for which we receive no incremental compensation," Billy Cheung, chairman of the Ontario Pharmacists' Association, said in a statement. "While we recognize that patients will benefit from lower generic drug prices, Ontario already has the lowest prices in Canada, and just last April our pharmacists were asked to accept lower prices to help pay for some of the 2012 budget commitments."
In April 2012, budget moves by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty included a proposal to pare the cost of the top 10 generic drugs to 20% of the price of the branded equivalent. And earlier, in 2010, Ontario slashed the cost of generic drugs paid for by the Ontario Drug Benefit and Trillium Drug Benefit plans to 25% of the cost of the branded product, down from 50% of the branded price.
"By continuing to reduce the price of generic drugs, the primary revenue source for most pharmacists is diminished, leaving pharmacists little time to focus on providing valuable front-line care to people in their community," stated Dennis Darby, chief executive officer of the Ontario Pharmacists' Association.
Under regulations approved last fall, Ontario pharmacists were permitted to provide such new services as adapting and renewing existing prescriptions; prescribing certain drugs to help people quit smoking; administering specific substances to a patient for the purpose of education and demonstration; piercing the skin to support patient self-care and monitoring of a chronic disease; and giving a flu shot to a person age 5 and older.
However, the association noted Friday that because most of the new professional services were implemented without additional compensation for pharmacists, community pharmacies must continue to rely in part on the dispensing of medications to sustain their practices.
"These services help take pressure off of other parts of the health care system, keep patients out of acute care, increase medication adherence and improve overall health outcomes," Darby added. "We would prefer to focus our efforts on being fairly compensated for the work pharmacists do to help patients and save money for the health care system. We will continue to collaborate with the government and other stakeholders to ensure pharmacists are fairly compensated for the health care they provide patients, in line with pharmacists in other provinces."