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Canadians ponder health care sustainability

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TORONTO — The Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada (Neighbourhood Pharmacies) has responded to a recent communiqué issued by Canada’s provincial and territorial premiers regarding the nation’s health care system.

While expressing support for the premiers’ concern about the system’s economic sustainaibility, Neighbourhood Pharmacies emphasizes that health care sustainability must include pharmaceutical pricing models that deliver savings without compromising the sustainability of the nation’s community pharmacies.

Publicly funded programs that include provincial and territorial drug plans rely on a sustainable network of distributors and retail pharmacies, says the trade group.

“In effect, neighborhood pharmacies across Canada make the functioning of publicly funded drug plans possible,” says Justin Bates, chief executive officer of Neighbourhood Pharmacies, in a statement. “We therefore believe that PT [provincial and territorial] governments must also develop pharmaceutical pricing and pharmacy policies that will generate the savings they seek, without compromising the sustainability of the 9,000 pharmacies serving the needs of all Canadians.”

The premiers are responding to the looming reduction of the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) escalator by as much as half to 3% from the current 6%. The CHT is a program that transfers federal funds to the provinces and territories to support their health care systems. The current funding formula is due to expire at the end of Canada’s fiscal year next spring, and the new liberal government reportedly favors targeted health care spending over increased funds transfers to provinces and territories.

That stance, however, could be problematic, since health care policy is determined at the provincial and territorial levels and providing targeted funds could be perceived as federal encroachment on the provinces’ and territories’ policy-making authority.

In a statement issued at their annual summer meeting, the premiers called for an immediate increase in funding through the CHT as part of a greater long-term funding partnership and asked to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this fall. The premiers noted that the Health Care Innovation Working Group, composed of the health ministers of Canada’s provinces and territories, has found ways to achieve savings, including price reductions on 18 generic drugs and negotiated price agreements for 96 branded drugs. The group claimed those efforts have saved more than $712 million (Canadian) annually.

Neighbourhood Pharmacies, though, contends that retail pharmacy has already made a major contribution to those savings over the past decade while becoming a front-line health care resource for growing numbers of Canadians.

“Neighbourhood Pharmacies supports a stable and predictable pricing regime that balances the patient needs with health care sustainability,” the group says. “As such, together we can do better, and at lower cost, by spending scarce health care dollars smarter.”


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