Quebecers now have more details about the costs of their drugs when they fill a prescription at a pharmacy.

As of Friday, new provincial rules require invoices from pharmacies to itemize the price of the drug itself, the wholesaler’s margin and the pharmacist’s fee. The latter is the only cost that varies between pharmacies in Quebec for private benefit plan members.

On average, Quebecers who get their medication through a private plan pay 17 per cent more in pharmacists’ fees than would be the case if they were to go through the public program, according to the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association. As a result of the higher pharmacist fees, the CLHIA estimates employees and employers covered by group insurance plans pay up to half a billion dollars more a year. 

The new transparency on invoices will boost awareness of discrepancies in prices, according to the CHLIA. The organization expects the change will help bolster the viability of supplementary health insurance plans by helping plan members make more informed choices and reduce costs.

Read: The impact of Ontario’s public drug program changes on private plans

“We are pleased that Quebecers are provided with greater transparency at the pharmacy with the new detailed invoice. We made this recommendation during consultations given the concerns raised by employers and insurers in Quebec related to the impact of rising drug costs,” said Lyne Duhaime, president of the Association canadienne des compagnies d’assurances de personnes, the CLHIA’s Quebec branch. “It is a significant expense and it became clear that plan members needed to be better informed so that they could make sound choices.”

Many private plan members don’t realize pharmacist fees vary widely and thus don’t understand how their choices affect the costs paid by their group insurance plans, says Johanne Brosseau, consultant at ConsultMed Consulting in Montreal.

But Brosseau argues Quebec’s insurance industry should go further in fighting high fees by getting together to set an industry standard for what it will pay.

Read: Healthy Outcomes: Helping employers navigate next deluge of rising drug costs

An industry cap wouldn’t, however, help claimants filling prescriptions with private plans as they’d still be on the hook for the balance in situations where pharmacists continued to charge more than the maximum eligible amount, Brosseau points out.

Brousseau notes costs remain lower for those who use the public plan due to a deal reached by the government with the province’s pharmacy industry that sets a fixed fee pharmacists can charge.

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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