A recent agreement to lower generic drug prices in Canada could has some pharmacists worried about potential increased costs to patients. File photo

Push to lower drug costs may do the opposite

Ponoka pharmacist worries if generics fall too low, companies may stop making them

A recent agreement that would see generic drug costs drop may have the opposite effect in the long term.

Late last month, the provincial, territorial and federal governments across Canada agreed with the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association on a new framework that will reduce the price of about 70 commonly prescribed generic drugs. The price drop takes affect on Apr. 1 and will more than triple the number of drugs that will be discounted up to 90 per cent from the brand name drugs.

The list of drugs included in the agreement range from blood pressure medications to anti-depressants to drugs for diabetics and those fighting high cholesterol.

Now while some pharmacists, as well as the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA), applauded the move to cut costs for patients, companies and governments, there are concerns about both the future and where government savings will go.

“While we certainly like to see drug costs go down for our patients, there is currently a shortage in the drug supply and the worry is that if generic manufacturers stop production, then everyone will face higher costs,” explained Ponoka Professional Pharmacy’s Jamil Rawji.

“The problem becomes at what point will it not be worth it for them to keep making the generic versions? Pharmacists always encourage having cheaper costs for patients, but I’m worried about my own patients if that supply dries up.”

Rawji understands the need for governments to be fiscally responsible, but will generic manufacturers put in the time and effort if the return continues to be less and less, he asked.

Meanwhile, the CPhA — which represents around 42,000 pharmacists — feels the savings by governments in the agreement need to be reinvested in what the group calls community healthcare.

Alistair Bursey, chair of the CPhA, explained in a release that pharmacists have never been more accessible and could be doing a lot more if the money saved were targeted through needed investments in harmonizing services, providing enhanced coverage levels and helping ensure medicines are being used effectively.

“Pharmacies have never been more important to patient and community health. From counselling patients on how to take their medications safely to giving flu shots, pharmacists are consistently providing the highest level of care to Canadians,” stated Alistair Bursey, CPhA chair in a release.

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