Nova Scotia

Generic drug prices to go down 5% more Feb. 1

Generic drug prices under Nova Scotia's publicly funded Pharmacare program will drop again at the end of January by five per cent.

Prices capped under Nova Scotia's publicly funded Pharmacare program

The cost of generic prescription drugs under the province's Pharmacare program is set to drop by a further five per cent on Feb. 1 (CBC)
Generic drug prices under Nova Scotia's publicly funded Pharmacare program will drop again at the end of January by five per cent.

This is the next phase in the provincial government's cap on generic drugs that takes effect on Feb. 1. By July 1, Pharmacare will pay 35 per cent of the price of an equivalent brand name drug.

The Fair Drug Pricing Act, passed last spring, capped the price of generic drugs to 45 per cent of the brand-name equivalent in July 2011. This next decrease will cap prices to 40 per cent .

Robin Borden, spokewoman with the Department of Health, said the cap is necessary.

"This is one of the steps we are taking to ensure that these programs remain viable and sustainable into the future," she said Tuesday.

But pharmacists don't like the measure because it has effectively eliminated rebates paid to pharmacies by drug companies, undermining the industry's business model.

They also say the loss has not been made  up by higher dispensing fees. They claim they are losing $4 on every prescription they fill.

Andrew Buffet, co-owner of six Pharmasave stores in Halifax, said he has had to cut back on staff.

Pharmacy co-owner Andrew Buffett said the cap has hurt his business. (CBC)
"We know how much we're going to lose over the next 12 months and so we've made some changes already," he said.     

So far, one delivery driver has been laid off, he said, and one pharmacist agreed to an early retirement.  Everyone else —180 workers in all — have had their wages frozen and are working reduced hours.

"It's still not going to be nearly enough to offset the losses," Buffett said.

Province has saved $6 million

 While the pharmacies tighten their belts, Health Department says this decision is a benefit to taxpayers.

"What it's saved for us under the Pharmacare program is approximately $6 million in this fiscal year," Borden said.

Pharmacists argue the benefits to seniors are overblown because after reaching a $382 maximum, they don't pay more.

But Billie Ann Metcalfe, who is one of more than 220,000 Nova Scotians who have seen cheaper generic drugs, likes paying less for her prescription.

"It was a difference in price of $3 or more. I think it's wonderful.  I mean, if it's anything in health, it's usually so expensive. It's much better to get a better price," she said. "They said they were going to do it, so they did it."