Nova Scotia

Deal between pharmacists and province ratified

The deal reached between the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness and pharmacists on drug dispensing fees has been ratified.

The deal reached between the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness and pharmacists on drug dispensing fees has been ratified.

The three-year agreement will see dispensing fees increase by one per cent in the first year of the agreement, 1.5 per cent in the second year and 1.3 per cent in the third year.

"We have added into that a transition fee to assist them in the transition period while generic drugs are now being capped at a much more reasonable rate," Health Minister Maureen MacDonald said Thursday.

The current dispensing fee is $10.62. By June 30, 2014, the dispensing fees and transition fees will amount to $12.10 per prescription.

Dispensing fees and transition fees

  • July 1, 2011 to Aug. 31, 2011 – Dispensing fee increases to $10.73, no transition fee.

Total: $10.73 per prescription

  • Sept. 1, 2011 to Dec. 31, 2011 – Dispensing fee remains at $10.73, transition fee of 10 cents.

Total: $10.83 per prescription

  • Jan. 1, 2012 to March 31, 2012 – Dispensing fee remains $10.73, transition fee of 25 cents.

Total: $10.98 per prescription

  • April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013 – Dispensing fee increases to $10.90, transition fee of 75 cents.

Total: $11.65 per prescription

  • April 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014 – Dispensing fee increases to $11.05, transition fee of $1.05.

Total: $12.10 per prescription

The Department of Health and Wellness is also introducing three new payments for services including:

  • Basic medication review: a fee of $52.50.
  • Prescription adaptation: a fee of $14.00.
  • Therapeutic substitution: a fee of $26.25.

"We are providing payment for new services that hadn't previously been compensated for," MacDonald told CBC News.

"We think that these three things together represent a very fair and a balanced outcome for pharmacy owners."

The three-year agreement and the new charges are designed to cushion the blow of setting a cap on what the province will pay for drugs covered under Nova Scotia's publicly-funded Pharmacare program.

The Fair Drug Pricing Act will cap the price of generic drugs to 45 per cent of the brand-name equivalent starting on Friday. That will decrease to 40 per cent by January and 35 per cent by July 1, 2012.

But pharmacists had complained the cap effectively eliminates rebates drug companies pay to pharmacies. Those rebates inflated consumer costs, but they became part of the industry business model.

When the tentative agreement between the province and pharmacists was announced last week, some drug owners said the deal still left them short. They said they may have to come up with new fees to make up the difference.

MacDonald said Thursday she isn't convinced that's the case.

"I don't know that pharmacies across the province are going to be introducing a whole lot of new fees," she said.

"I haven't seen any evidence of that. I think that the tariff agreement we've negotiated is a fair agreement and that it does compensate pharmacy owners and pharmacists for the work that they do."

MacDonald said the deal is worth about $10 million. She added the province will save much more than that by paying lower drug costs.

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