Pharmacy dispensing fee payments now capped at $30

A cap on pharmacy dispensing fees paid by provincial drug programs comes into effect on Friday. The change is estimated to save the province about $11 million a year.

Provincial drug program changes now in effect for dispensing, compounding drugs

The province is now capping pharmacy dispensing fees at $30 for prescriptions being billed to the provincial drug program. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A cap on pharmacy dispensing fees paid by provincial drug programs is now in effect. Though the change is expected to save the province about $11 million a year, Pharmacists Manitoba says it's too soon to tell how it will affect businesses or patients.

Until now, pharmacies have set their own dispensing fees when filling prescriptions. The fee is based on overhead costs, profit margins, and market conditions and vary from pharmacy to pharmacy.

A compounding fee may also be charged if the medication needs to be mixed or tailored to a patient's specific needs.

As of Aug. 18, fees covered under the provincial drug program will be capped at $30 per prescription, compounding fees will also be capped at $30 for non-sterile preparations and no more than $60 for sterile preparations.

The cap is only applicable for prescriptions being billed to the provincial drug program. Patients who use the program will be responsible for paying any outstanding portion of the fees.

After the changes were announced in July a Manitoba couple worried that the uncovered portion of the fees could cost them hundreds of dollars per month.

Patients are being encouraged to speak with their doctors and pharmacists about how the changes might impact them. They are also encouraged to shop around and find out which pharmacies may offer better pricing.

In some situations where more complex dispensing services are required, the program may make exceptions and will be considered on a case by case basis.

Over the next few months the province will be monitoring feedback from pharmacists and will allow a grace period for pharmacies to adjust their billing practices.

Too soon to tell how pharmacies will be impacted

The group that represents pharmacists in the province says it has been working to prepare for the changes but doesn't yet know how individual businesses may be affected.

"It is too early to speculate on what the impact of the changes may be, but in some instances patients may pay a fee where they did not previously,"said Dr. Brenna Shearer of Pharmacists Manitoba in an emailed statement.

"Patients should speak with their pharmacist, and I know our members will be doing their utmost to ensure their patients understand what is changing," she said.

According to the province's website, approximately 97 per cent of dispensing fees on provincial drug program claims are less than $30. While just three per cent of fees are more than $30, in some cases they exceed $900.

Manitoba spent over $52 million on dispensing and compounding fees in the 2016-17 fiscal year. The province said over 90,000 prescriptions being billed to the program had dispensing fees over $30, totalling $11.7 million.