Rebates from generic drug manufacturers are passed on to patients in the form of pharmacy services rather than lower prices, the British Columbia Pharmacy Association said Tuesday in response to a Competition Bureau of Canada report.

The report said many generic drug companies compete for space on pharmacists' shelves by offering rebates to the retailers, but those benefits aren't getting back to consumers in the form of lower prices.

'Without the income generated from the rebates coming from the generic manufacturers, necessary pharmacy services would be going unfunded.' —Marnie Mitchell, B.C. Pharmacy Association

The study, released Monday by the independent agency, found that rebates average about 40 per cent of the price the pharmacy is charged on paper for various generic drugs.

But the pharmacy association said the report failed to note that pharmacy services are underfunded by governments, and it ignored the fact that the complex generic drug supply model helps provide patients with essential pharmaceutical care.

"Without the income generated from the rebates coming from the generic manufacturers, necessary pharmacy services would be going unfunded," Marnie Mitchell, CEO of the British Columbia Pharmacy Association, said in a statement.

"By having regular conversations with patients about their health, and working to optimize drug regimes, pharmacists improve the quality of life and health outcomes for patients, and keep them out of the hospital," Mitchell said.

The statement noted that B.C. pharmacists are compensated with a fee for each prescription, and the maximum that B.C.'s PharmaCare pays has been frozen at $8.60 since 2003.

It said a study by the B.C. Pharmacy Association, the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores and the B.C. Ministry of Health showed that, when all functions of a pharmacist are considered — including filling and verifying a prescription, counselling and consulting — it costs the pharmacy $13.60 to provide the services.

The rebates or allowances provided to pharmacies by the generic drug manufacturers help fill the gap, the association said.

Competition Bureau commissioner Sheridan Scott said Monday that over the next year the bureau will study possible measures for shifting the focus of generic competition from pharmacies to public and private insurers and consumers.