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Quebec fosters Rx price transparency

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Pharmacy patients in Quebec now have a better idea of what’s behind pricing when they pick up prescriptions.

The province on Sept. 15 began having pharmacies issue a more detailed invoice to provide cost transparency for the drugs dispensed. The new invoice itemizes the pharmacist’s fee, the price of the medication and the wholesaler’s margin.

The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA) launched an information campaign to inform consumers about Quebec’s more detailed pharmacy invoice and help them understand it. The includes a web page explaining the invoice.

The website notes that just one of these items on the invoice can vary from one pharmacy to another: the pharmacist’s fee. The drug price is set by the government, and the distributor’s price is capped by the government at 6.5% of the price of the drug.

A more detailed invoice is expected to promote wider use of generic drugs, result in prescription refills that cover longer periods and enable consumers to compare fees between pharmacies. In Quebec, pharmacist fees are negotiated with the government for the public plan but aren’t regulated for private plans.

According to CLHIA, there’s an average 17% gap between the fees pharmacists charged to Quebecers covered under private group plans and those covered by the public plan. The association also reported that, because of higher pharmacists’ fees, Quebec employees and employers with group insurance plans pay almost half-billion dollars more than if they had been covered under the public plan.

“We are pleased that Quebecers are provided with greater transparency at the pharmacy with the new detailed invoice,” commented Lyne Duhaime, president of CLHIA in Quebec (ACCAP-Quebec). “We made this recommendation during consultations given the concerns raised by employers and insurers in Quebec related to the impact of rising drug costs. It is a significant expense, and it became clear that plan members needed to be better informed so that they could make sound choices.”

In the province, drug expenses jumped 88% in 10 years for the private side of the plan, said CLHIA, whose member companies account for 99% of Canada’s life and health insurance business. Quebecers insured by the private sector buy over $3 billion in medications annually.


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