BC moves to cut generic drug prices

Fri Jul 9, 2010 3:52pm EDT
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - British Columbia and the pharmacy industry unveiled an agreement on Friday they said will cut generic drug prices and avoid the battle that erupted after Ontario slashed prices there.

Prices for generic drugs will be capped at 35 percent of that of the equivalent brand name drug, down from the current average of 65 percent. The lower prices will be phased in over three years.

The change is expected to lower health care costs in British Columbia, Canada's westernmost province, by C$380 million ($369 million) annually.

Prices for brand name drugs in Canada are federally regulated, but there have long been complaints that Canadians pay more for generic drugs than do residents of other countries.

"It is indisputable that generic drug prices in Canada need to be lower," British Columbia Health Services Minister Kevin Falcon said in a joint news conference with representatives of the drugstore industry.

Pharmacies will be partly compensated with an increase in the fee the province pays them to dispense drugs, and by allowing them to offer more clinical services to customers.

Falcon and industry representatives both said that reaching an agreement was not easy, but they wanted to avoid the kind of fight that would have erupted had the province unilaterally legislated the price cuts.

Ontario triggered a nasty fight with drugstore chains such Shoppers Drug Mart Corp this year when it slashed the price of generics to 25 percent of branded equivalents and eliminated the rebates stores receive from the drug makers.   Continued...