May 25, 2010

Use purchasing power to lower prescription drug prices for all – CUPE BC

BURNABY—BC should follow the lead of the Ontario government and negotiate a lower price for generic prescription drugs for all British Columbians, not just those who receive their prescriptions through PharmaCare, CUPE BC President Barry O’Neill said today in a letter to BC Health Minister Kevin Falcon.

“I will be the first to congratulate the government if it does the right thing on this important issue,” said O’Neill. “This is an opportunity to save British Columbians hundreds of millions per year in our health care system, and it is imperative we embrace the moment. British Columbians deserve as much in savings as our friends in Ontario and the government has no excuse not to make that happen.

“The previous negotiations focused solely on the cost of generic prescription drugs for PharmaCare, and we believe that was a serious mistake. This is an opportunity for the BC Liberals to learn from the past and improve the system so that all British Columbians benefit,” said O’Neill.

O’Neill’s letter outlined CUPE BC’s 4-point plan for a more cost-efficient and equitable prescription drug pricing system.

1. Negotiate on behalf of all prescription drugs purchasers, not just PharmaCare. This would include both purchase through private plans and individual purchases. The savings being discussed are extremely important for the sustainability of private benefits plans in British Columbia. These private plans play a critical role in our health care system.

2. Pharmacists are being asked to play a larger role in the health care system. A portion of any savings for PharmaCare as a result of lower generic pricing should be directed to supporting this role, particularly for rural and underserviced areas.

3. It is important that mechanisms be in place to ensure that unjustifiable costs for generic drugs are not simply shifted to other mechanisms of payment. This should include oversight and may include controls of dispensing fees for prescriptions delivered outside of PharmaCare.

4. Continue to work with other provinces to create a larger purchasing group to obtain better prices for both generic and brand name drugs.

Media reports say that Falcon has given the BC Pharmacists Association until the end of June to submit a plan on this issue. Meanwhile, the Ontario government has indicated it wishes to work with other provinces to develop a national prescription drug strategy. Ontario has developed a plan to reduce the cost of generic prescription drugs by more than $500 million per year, while Alberta has announced a plan that will save it $100 million annually.

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