Changes coming to drug rules, but no one talking about it

James
James McLeod
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Amendment bill seems to eliminate rules that were never enforced

Legislation to be debated in the House of Assembly Monday seems like it will fix the fact that the government has been breaking its own law for several years.

The brief summary of the legislative amendment to the Pharmaceutical Services Act says it will "enable a new generic drug pricing model," but one of the key sections of the legislation eliminates a provision that hasn't been enforced in years.

The legislation currently on the books says Newfoundland and Labrador generic drug prices should be in line with whichever province is cheapest in Canada.

"The guaranteed price for a generic drug ... shall be the best price available in any other province or territory of Canada," the act says.

Maximum price

Jennifer Tulk, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health, confirmed the provision requiring Newfoundland's drug prices to be equal to the lowest prices in the country has never been enforced.

The amendment of the Pharmaceutical Services Act gets rid of that line, and instead says, "The maximum price shall be calculated as a percentage of brand price in the manner prescribed in the regulations."

It's unclear what those regulations will be.

The legislation was tabled in the House of Assembly Wednesday, but Health Minister Susan Sullivan declined to comment on it until Monday, when it will get second reading in the House.

"At this point it's really unfair for me to provide details through the media," Sullivan said. "We've agreed to do the briefings for the media on Monday. We've agreed to do the briefings for the opposition on Monday as well, and I think we'll stay with that plan."

Opposition briefed

Both opposition parties said they're already in the process of being briefed on the legislation, but they each declined to comment on it before Monday.

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael, in a statement, said the party had entered into an agreement with the government to not talk about it.

"We have agreed with the government House Leader that we will not comment until the legislation is before the House and we are honouring that agreement. In addition, we understand that there are negotiations still ongoing and we don't want to interfere," Michael said.

Despite the fact that no one wants to talk about it, the legislation is already causing a stir with community pharmacists, who worry that changes to the generic drug pricing model will put a squeeze on their business.

Sue Kelland-Dyer, executive director of the Council of Independent Community Pharmacy Owners (CICPO), said the worry is that if the government moves to reduce the regulated prices of generic drugs, it will have "unintended consequences."

Pharmacies partly rely on "professional allowances" - payments by generic drug companies to pharmacies for them to stock their drugs - and Kelland-Dyer said the worry is if the government lowers the price of generic drugs, the companies will in turn cut the professional allowances.

Tulk said that's part of the reason why the lowest price provision in the legislation was never enforced.

"The provincial government received submissions from rural independent pharmacy owners that suggested implementation of the letter of the law would impact them," she said.

jmcleod@thetelegram.com Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Pharmaceutical Services, Department of Health, Council of Independent Community Pharmacy Owners

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

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  • MW
    March 27, 2012 - 10:38

    As if the legal drug dealers need more money...