Nova Scotia

N.S. government to cap prescription drug prices

The Nova Scotia government is taking steps to control the cost of prescription drugs, which are some of the highest in Canada.

The Nova Scotia government is taking steps to control the cost of prescription drugs, which are some of the highest in Canada.

It has introduced legislation designed to save millions of dollars on the price of generic drugs covered under Nova Scotia's publicly funded Pharmacare program.

"This particular act is designed to get a better deal for the taxpayer and for seniors and families who rely on our Pharmacare programs," Health Minister Maureen MacDonald said Friday.     

The bill would cap the price of generic drugs to 45 per cent of the brand-name equivalent in July, 40 per cent by January and 35 per cent by July 1, 2012.

But, pharmacists are warning of unintended consequences.  

Pharmacist Kim Geldart says the province's plan to cap generic drugs costs will force her to lay off staff. ((CBC))
The cap on generic drug prices effectively eliminates rebates drug companies pay to pharmacies. Those rebates inflated consumer costs, but they became part of the industry business model.     

"The financial impact is huge," said Kim Geldart, who owns three Pharmasave drug stores in the Chester area.  

To make up the loss, she wants the government to increase the fee or so-called tariff it pays pharmacists to dispense drugs under Pharmacare.

"We want the public of Nova Scotia to have the best possible drug prices. We want to get away from reliance on generic and professional rebates because we want stability in our industry," she said.

Pharmacists claim they are losing $4 on every prescription they fill.

Geldart said that without higher dispensing fees the generic drug cap could force her to close one of her three stores and lay off four of seven pharmacists.

For a second day, pharmacists voiced their objections Friday at a legislature committee studying the proposed law.

Pharmacists want the generic caps phased in over three years, but the government does not sound sympathetic.

"We have listened to them with respect to what the cap should be set at — 35 per cent rather than 25 per cent," MacDonald said.

Negotiations over fees are continuing. The first cut in generic prices is set to go into effect in July.

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