A University of British Columbia (UBC) study shows that there are enough pharmacies situated throughout Ontario communities to absorb many closures without negatively affecting geographic accessibility for residents.

The research suggests concerns that reducing generic pricing could result in pharmacy shortages are unfounded.

Last summer, the Ontario government cut the price of generic drugs by half—to approximately 25% of the equivalent brand name drug—leading to heated discussions on the sustainability of existing pharmacies. Some pharmacy chains claimed they might be forced to close stores as a result of the cuts.

“We found that even if half of the pharmacies in Ontario closed, at most only three or four out of 100 people would lose all the pharmacies within five kilometres of their house,” says Michael Law, an assistant professor at the UBC Centre for Health Services and Policy Research and lead author of the study.

Law and colleagues analyzed the location of more than 3,300 community pharmacies and census data in the province. They found that approximately 64% of the Ontario population resides within walking distance (800 metres) of a pharmacy, while 85% live within two kilometres and 91% live within five kilometres.

“Even when we simulated a random shutdown of 50% of Ontario’s community pharmacies, we found that approximately half of the residents would still live within walking distance to a pharmacy and 87% of the population would still be within a five-kilometer driving distance from a pharmacy,” says Law. “It appears that the effect of closures on geographic access would be quite modest. That is, if the pricing cuts that Ontario introduced have led to any pharmacy closures at all.”

Compared to the U.S., Canada has 40% more pharmacies per capita.

“The important thing to consider is whether we have the right balance between drug prices and reasonable access to pharmacies,” Law says. “We could pay $10,000 per prescription and have a pharmacy on every corner, but I don’t think that would improve the health of Canadians.”

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

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