New Brunswick

Generic drug plan cuts costs, Dubé says

Health Minister Madeleine Dubé says the provincial government's new generic drug pricing policy will save $10 million in the first 10 months.

Pharmacists say new plan will cost them money

A comparison of drug costs in Canada. (Government of New Brunswick)

The New Brunswick government’s new generic drug pricing plan will save $10 million in the first 10 months, according to Health Minister Madeleine Dubé.

The health minister announced the new generic drug pricing policy on Thursday in Fredericton. The announcement comes after a public consultation tour and negotiations with the New Brunswick Pharmacists’ Association.

Dubé said New Brunswick residents are paying more for generic drugs than people in other provinces. The province will put a limit on how much can be charged for generic drugs.

"Even though generic drugs are cheaper than brand name drugs, the fact is New Brunswickers are paying more for generic drugs than most of their provincial counterparts," Dubé said.

"The efforts announced today will ensure that all New Brunswickers benefit from more affordable drugs,  pay a similar price for generic drugs as their counterparts in other jurisdictions and will help to ensure the sustainability of drug programs for future beneficiaries."

Dubé said the changes will save roughly $10 million in the first 10 months.

The health minister said generic drugs are cheaper than brand name drugs but New Brunswickers are paying more than people in other provinces.

"In New Brunswick, we pay 50 to 70 per cent of the brand name price while residents of other provinces pay only 25 to 35 per cent," she said.

"Under this new generic drug pricing policy, pharmacies will be able to charge 40 per cent of the brand price as of June 1, 2012 and that will be lowered to 35 per cent on Dec. 1."

The health department says the drug Lipitor costs $161.24 and its generic version, atorvastatin, costs $91.86 in New Brunswick. Meanwhile, the same drug costs $46.68 in Ontario.

Similarly, the drug Fosamax costs $173.04 and its generic version, alendronate, costs $100.58 in New Brunswick. The same drug costs $49.68 in Ontario.

Improving services

The health minister said some of that money will be spent on improving other pharmacy services.

The provincial government will spend $4.5 million in 2012-13 to bump up dispensing fees to pharmacists.

The health department will spend $295,000 on a rural pharmacy incentive initiative. Pharmacies that are 25 kilometres away from another pharmacy will get an extra $2 dispensing fee for the first 10,000 provincial prescription drug plan prescriptions it fills.

As well, Dubé said $1.2 million will be spent to help pharmacies hook up to the provincial prescription drug monitoring program.

The health department spends roughly $190 million a year on the province's prescription drug program, which has more than doubled in the last decade.

There are 105,000 New Brunswickers on the prescription drug program, which covers low-income seniors, people with special medical conditions or clients of the Department of Social Development.

Will cost pharmacists

The provincial government estimates 50 to 55 per cent of the population does not have drug coverage.

Paul Blanchard, executive director of the New Brunswick Pharamcists' Association, says the new generic drug policy will cost pharmacists money. (CBC)

Paul Blanchard, executive director of the New Brunswick Pharmacists’ Association, estimates this new policy will cost every pharmacy in the province about $100,000.

"We think the proposals that we heard today fall significantly short of what Nova Scotia’s developed, for example, and will at least have that sort of impact," he said.

Nova Scotia pays pharmacists about $1.30 more per prescription than New Brunswick is offering, he said.

Blanchard said his association has been advocating for a change in generic drug pricing, but pharmacists need more help to cover costs.

"Ontario brought this policy into play many years ago. But Ontario also increased their dispensing fees to pharmacies, they provided a mark up for services and encouraged pharmacists to work collaboratively in an extended scope of practice," he said.

"We have been chronically underfunded in New Brunswick, so when you compare to other provinces, our reimbursement is far lower than any other province and has been for a long time."

Blanchard said his association is asking that the province offset the cost of operating.