Province spends $40M for pharmacies to adjust to lower drug payouts

EDMONTON — Alberta will invest $40 million this year to help pharmacists adjust to the new world of lower payouts for generic drugs, Health Minister Fred Horne said Wednesday.

EDMONTON — Alberta will invest $40 million this year to help pharmacists adjust to the new world of lower payouts for generic drugs, Health Minister Fred Horne said Wednesday.

His announcement came amid warnings from opposition politicians that the Health Department has not thought through the new drug plan and the result could be higher prices or medications not being available when needed.

Horne said that won’t happen.

“There are no categories where there are not listings available to fill prescriptions today, and anyone who is telling people something to the contrary is not telling them the truth,” Horne told reporters.

As of May 1, the province is cutting in half what it pays for generic drugs. The payout will drop from 35 per cent to 18 per cent for a generic drug compared with the cost of an equivalent brand name medication.

The province said this is a reasonable adjustment to the funding model, will lower costs for consumers and free up an additional $90 million to reinvest in health care.

Pharmacists have said the cut could severely impact their bottom line and lead to layoffs or even pharmacy closures.

Horne said the $40 million is to address those concerns.

Some of the money will compensate pharmacists who bought medications at the old price but will be subject to the new lower fee as of May 1.

Starting next week, the province will also reinstate for one year a $1 payout per prescription.

There will be cash to train pharmacists to perform a wide range of billable tasks introduced last year to give them a larger role in patient care. Those duties include renewing prescriptions and crafting a patient’s drug management plan.

There will be $10.6 million over two years to try to keep the doors open on rural pharmacies, which are considered particularly vulnerable due to comparatively smaller customer bases.

“I think what we’ve done today will help in the transition,” said Horne, though he conceded, “I obviously can’t make a commitment that we will make every pharmacy whole. They practise in very different situations.”

Opposition leaders said they’re concerned that the pace of change is too quick and that drug suppliers are reacting by hiking the prices for other drugs or simply not supplying a medication altogether, such as penicillin.

“We’re going to see drugs delisted without having an alternative. We’re going to see patients paying more out of pocket for their drugs, and we’re going to start seeing pharmacy closures,” said Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith.

NDP Leader Brian Mason said: “We do support lower drug prices, but the government has to move very carefully to prevent unintended consequences which might mean the withdrawal of low-cost drugs from the market if they can’t earn sufficient (profit) margin.”

Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said the drug changes and changes to billable pharmacist responsibilities need to be better co-ordinated.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Patient information breach at Red Deer hospital

3,224 patients had their electronic health records accessed improperly

An Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet arrives at Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Air Canada agrees to $5.9-billion aid package, giving Ottawa equity stake in airline

$1.4 billion earmarked to help reimburse thousands of customers

Innisfail RCMP say Brandon Pitts is missing. (Photo contributed)
Missing central Alberta man

Innisfail RCMP request public’s help

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Yukon Premier Sandy Silver as Liberal on Wednesday February 8, 2017 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Yukon headed for minority government as two main parties in a tie

Liberals came into the election looking to build on their surprise 2016 majority win

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan takes part in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press at National Defence headquarters in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. Sajjan took aim at recent Chinese military expansions into the South China Sea this evening even as he faced questions about the Liberal government’s ties to Beijing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Sajjan targets Chinese claims in South China Sea, battles Tories over Beijing ties

HMCS Calgary shadowed for at least part of the voyage as it passed near the disputed Spratly Islands

Hindu devotees wearing face masks as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus stand in a queue to offer prayers inside a temple dedicated to goddess Kali in Jammu, India, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. New infections have surged in the past month and India has now reported over 13.6 million cases — pushing its toll past Brazil, and making it second only to the United States. In the past 24 hours, over 160,000 new infections have been detected and experts fear that the worst is yet to come. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
Johnson & Johnson delays shot rollout in Europe

BERLIN — Johnson & Johnson says it is delaying the rollout of… Continue reading

Restaurant workers and restaurant delivery workers wait in line to sign up for Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccine site, Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in the Sunset Park neighborhood of New York. The mobile vaccination effort includes two buses equipped with four to six vaccinators each, delivering the COVID-19 vaccine directly to communities most in need. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
US recommends ‘pause’ for J&J vaccine over clot reports

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in using the single-dose… Continue reading

FILE-Team Canada’s Meaghan Mikkelson fights for control of the puck with U.S.A.’s Hayley Scamurra during third period of Women’s Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. Gina Kingsbury, Hockey Canada’s director of women’s national teams, hopes a Rivalry Series against the United States can happen this winter.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Dwyer
Canadian women’s hockey team to open selection camp in Nova Scotia

Six goaltenders, 15 defenders and 26 forwards will vie for spots on Canada’s 23-player roster

FILE - Rhian Wilkinson, left, and Melissa Tancredi of Canada’s women’s soccer team attend a news conference in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 to announce their retirement from the team. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Former Canadian international Rhian Wilkinson now part of England coaching setup

Wilkinson left Canada Soccer in January to join interim England head coach Hege Riise as an assistant

Canadian actor/producer/director Jay Baruchel is photographed at the 5 Drive-In Theatre in Oakville, Ont., ahead of the premier of Baruchel’s movie Random Acts of Violence, Wednesday, July 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Jay Baruchel to host Amazon Prime Video’s ‘LOL: Last One Laughing Canada’

Final comedian left standing wins a grand prize for a charity of their choice

Letters
Letter: Leaders like MLA Jason Stephan should work towards greater good

Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan talks about the devastating social and… Continue reading

Opinion
Opinion: Women, hit hardest by pandemic, key to economic recovery

Events of the past year have laid bare the many disparities and… Continue reading

Most Read