Action to restrain the cost of generic prescription drugs in Canada's largest province draws serious interest in a growing number of other provinces.
Toronto (10 May 2010) - A plan to force down the cost of generic prescription drugs in Ontario is creating momentum for a regulated national market for purchasing drugs.
"Provinces in Western Canada are working on developing a joint drug-purchasing plan," the Toronto Globe and Mail reports.
"The Atlantic provinces are collaborating on their own initiative and Quebec has policies that allow it to get the best prices available in Canada," the newspaper says.
"But Canada's most populous province sets the trend for the rest of the country. Ontario's plan to halve its annual generic drug tab of more than $1-billion eclipses initiatives in the other provinces and is fuelling debate on a single national system."
Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews has called on her provincial and territorial colleagues to work together to develop a single system for generic prescription drugs.
In a letter to Canada's health ministers last week, Matthews warned that pharmacy chains could go jurisdiction shopping for the best deal – by making bulk purchases at the new lower price and selling the drugs to consumers in other provinces.
"Ms. Matthews's letter has resonated with other health ministers," the Globe notes. "British Columbia Health Minister Kevin Falcon told The Globe and Mail there is potential for every region in Canada to collaborate on pricing."
Falcon has given pharmacy chains in B.C. until the end of June to come up with a plan to significantly reduce the cost of generic drugs. If they fail, he plans to take unilateral action.
Manitoba Health Minister Theresa Oswald told the Globe she sees “a lot of merit” in having a national strategy on generic drug pricing.
The newspaper says P.E.I. is also watching Ontario with keen interest. “We're faced with rapidly rising drug costs and are looking at ways to maximize the dollars we spend,” said Faye Martin, the Island's director of pharmacy services.
Martin said the Atlantic provinces are collaborating in an effort to get better prices on generic drugs, but the talks are at an early stage.
Meanwhile, health policy experts said other provinces could face pressure to follow Ontario's lead in lowering generic drug prices. Canadian generic drug prices are the second highest among developed countries after the United States.
"Otherwise, the experts said the provinces run the risk of drugstore chains recouping their lost income in Ontario by increasing prices elsewhere," the Globe adds." Consumers whose drug costs are not covered by public or private plans would be the big losers."
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