Pharmacists protesting a 50 per cent cut to generic drug prices march along 49th Street Thursday.

Pharmacists protesting a 50 per cent cut to generic drug prices march along 49th Street Thursday.

Pharmacists rally in downtown Red Deer

About 50 Central Alberta pharmacists rallied in downtown Red Deer on Thursday to protest government cuts to generic drug prices.



About 50 Central Alberta pharmacists rallied in downtown Red Deer on Thursday to protest government cuts to generic drug prices.

They joined many of their Central Alberta counterparts who closed stores to pass out information to patients as part of the provincewide protest.

“Pharmacists are gravely concerned for their patients and their profession,” said pharmacist Max Bearisto to the crowd before it marched from City Hall Park through downtown to the 49th Avenue and 49th Street corner to garner support and attention from passing midday motorists.

The province will pay 18 per cent — down from 35 per cent — of brand name drug prices for generic counterparts after June 1. The province initially planned to make the change on May 1 but delayed the start date.

Pharmacists say this will end drug maker rebates, a major source of revenue, forcing closures and layoffs, especially among small community independents. It may also result in drug shortages since makers won’t get the same level of profit.

Bearisto called “insulting” the $40 million that Health Minister Fred Horne announced Wednesday to cover the costs for generics that pharmacists bought at the older, higher prices. The additional money is also intended to keep rural pharmacies open and to train more pharmacists to perform more billable tasks.

“It’s a Band Aid solution for a profession that’s going to need some intensive care.”

Dev Aggarwal, owner of West Park Pharmacy, told the group “I’m not sure I can sustain the same (financial) model and give good care to my patients.

“I have a $240,000 inventory that’s going to be worth half June 1. I’m not some clothing store who can say everything is half price now.”