Originally from our sister publication, CanadianHealthcareNetwork.ca.

Just two years after legislation forced generic prices down 50% to 25% of brand for Ontario Drug Benefit recipients, prices may soon be cut even further.

To avoid a snap election, the minority Liberal government courted NDP support for its budget Friday with $275 million for child care and the disabled, partially paid for by taking “immediate” action to further lower generic drug prices paid by the province.

Enabling pharmacists to use their skills to deliver more healthcare services to Ontarians could save much more than the proposed $55 million from generic drug costs.

The new plan calls for dropping the price the government pays for the top 10 generic drugs to 20% of the brand name equivalent.

The Liberals say the move will raise $55 million, which will help pay for a one per cent increase in disability support payments starting in the fall at a cost of $33 million annually.

But in a statement, the Ontario Pharmacists’ Association came out in strong opposition to the government’s proposition, with chair Darryl Moore calling it “very surprising” and “short-sighted”. The association argued that Ontario already has the lowest generic drug prices in the country, and also that the profession is still recovering from the $500 million in savings the government has obtained from it since 2010.

Instead of further slashing generic prices, the association suggested that the government would find much larger savings by implementing the legislation it passed in December 2009 that set the stage for an increased scope of pharmacy practice.

Regulations included in Bill 179 would enable pharmacists to extend prescriptions for chronic medications, adjust dosage and forms of medications if necessary, independently prescription medications for smoking cessation and other minor ailments, order and receive lab tests, and provide immunizations and routine injections.

“Enabling pharmacists to use their skills to deliver more healthcare services to Ontarians could save much more than the proposed $55 million from generic drug costs,” said Moore, with the statement estimating the government could save around $130 million annually by further utilizing pharmacists.

Earlier this year, economist Don Drummond voiced his support for implementing these changes in the austerity report he prepared for the province, arguing that doing so would help the province slash its deficit and increase access for patients.

The Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association also responded to the government’s proposal, calling it reckless and unfair.

“The announcement by the Ontario government of plans to further cut prices of generic prescription medicines was done without consultation with our industry or prior notice and must be withdrawn,” said CGPA president Jim Keon in a statement.

“The generic pharmaceutical industry has done more than its fair share to contribute to cost savings in Ontario, and has endured massive cuts to reimbursement prices in both 2007 and 2010.”

Keon backed the OPA’s call for further utilizing pharmacists, which he says would provide much greater savings than the government’s latest proposal.

He also offered other ideas for cost savings, including increasing generic drug utilization, providing incentives for generic drug firms to challenge invalid or non-infringed drug patents, and ensuring new generic drugs are added to the government’s drug plan formulary quickly and efficiently.

What’s more, Keon warned that further price cuts would result in fewer generic drugs coming to market—and at a later date—and fewer competitors, thus jeopardizing the supply of generic medicines.

Queen’s Park votes on the Liberal’s budget Tuesday.

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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