Generic drug prices in Alberta are coming down on April 1.
Prices will fall to 56 per cent of comparable brand name drugs under a new agreement between the province, pharmacists and chain drug stores. A previous agreement set generic prices at 75 per cent of their brand name counterparts.
The decrease applies to generic drugs that were already included on the Alberta Drug Benefit before Oct. 1, 2009.
The change will mean lower drug prices for consumers and annual savings between $90 million and $100 million to the government, said Health and Wellness Minister Gene Zwozdesky.
“I don’t know how much it will impact individual Albertans … but generally speaking this is very positive news for Albertans overall, both as private citizens and as taxpayers,” he said.
The reduction is the second phase of the government’s efforts to bring generic prices down. In October 2009 the price of new generic drugs was reduced from 75 per cent to 45 per cent of the price of comparable brand name drugs. This change applied to generic drugs added to the drug benefit list after Oct. 1, 2009.
The latest reduction comes after negotiations that included the Alberta Pharmacists’ Association and the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores. The government had been aiming to match the 45 per cent level achieved for new generic drugs but is “pretty happy” to land on 56 per cent, which Zwozdesky feels is still a good deal for Albertans.
“They are still getting a tremendous reduction from 75 down to 56,” he said.
To compensate pharmacists for the loss of revenue, the government is developing a new payment model that will reimburse pharmacists for providing expanded professional services like patient consultations, medication reviews and immunizations. This new payment model will be introduced later this year, Zwozdesky said.
In the meantime, he’s providing $75 million over three years for a transition allowance. This will provide additional payments to pharmacies on top of their current $10.93 dispensing fee for prescriptions less than $75. The additional payments will be $3 per prescription in the first year, $2 in the second year and one dollar in the third year.
The Alberta Pharmacists’ Association and the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores both endorsed the new plan.
“It’s good for the patient. They will pay less for generic costs,” said Margaret Wing, acting CEO of the Alberta Pharmacists’ Association.
“It’s great for the profession because we know we’ll be able to get payment for professional services down the road.”
Wing said she’s confident that the government will follow through on its promise to expand the compensation model but St. Albert pharmacist A.J. Jomha is skeptical the changes will actually materialize.
“They’ve been talking about changes in compensation since I graduated 13 years ago. It will be interesting to see what happens,” he said.