Prescription pills (CBC)

Proposed changes to Newfoundland and Labrador's Pharmaceutical Services Act could mean some people on the government's drug program may end up paying more for prescription drugs and independent pharmacists may earn less.

The government is planning to amend the way it purchases generic drugs this spring with amendments to the act.

When Jerome Kennedy was health minister last July, he said in a government news release that the province was not considering any drug-pricing policy that would download costs to residents.

But if passed, the new legislation tabled in the house this spring will require people on the province's drug plan to pay the difference if they want a drug that's more expensive than the equivalent generic drug covered by the province.

Pharmacy concerns

Private pharmacy owners also have concerns about generic drug pricing legislation.

They fear changes will affect their bottom lines.

The government aims to save the province tens of millions of dollars by getting the best price for generic drugs.

But according to government briefing notes obtained through an access to information request, the provincial pharmacists' association hired Memorial University economist Wade Locke to look at what that might mean to independent pharmacies.

Pharmacies in the province are paid rebates/allowances by drug companies to stock pharmaceuticals.

The independent pharmacists are concerned that any new legislation might greatly reduce these fees.

There is also a concern that reducing these rebates may force pharmacies to increase dispensing fees.

"The [pharmacy] industry argues that professional rebates/allowances have been used by pharmacies to offset higher costs, low dispensing fees, and to maintain the overall profitability of their businesses," according to a provincial government briefing note provided to Health Minister Susan Sullivan.