Dressed in their white lab coats, 300 Alberta pharmacists marched on the steps of the Alberta Legislature last Thursday, chanting “patient-care first,” in the middle of the year’s biggest snowstorm.
Pharmacists from across Alberta and pharmacy students met for the demonstration to protest the government’s plans to reduce the price of generic drugs.
The pharmacists were protesting the government’s decision to drop generic drug price margins from 35 to 18 per cent, which will decrease their profit margins. Many of Alberta’s pharmacists increase their margins by arranging volume deals on drugs that allows them to take advantage of incentives from suppliers which contributes a significantly to their incomes.
The government imposed drop in prices will not allow suppliers to offer the incentives which will come directly from the pharmacies profits.
Ultimately, patients will suffer as some pharmacies will be forced to close, lay off staff or even reduce their hours of operation. The price lowering is being heralded as a way to save consumers money on the cost of their prescriptions, with little to no mention of the economic fallout to the businesses themselves.
Health Minister Fred Horne says that, even though they’ll be losing one source of income, they will be gaining the ability to charge for additional services such as giving injections, putting together patient care plans and renewing prescriptions.
These new sources of revenue will not be enough to replace the lost income. Some pharmacists are saying they really don’t want to charge for advice and services that they currently give for free.
The Wildrose Official Opposition has called on the government to halt the plan which could potentially result in major service interruptions and eventually drug shortages.
In Question Period, also on Thursday, my colleagues, Wildrose Official Opposition Leader Danielle Smith and Seniors Critic Kerry Towle, both urged the government to abandon its proposed changes in order to preserve important pharmaceutical care for Albertans who depend on it.
Towle pointed out that the proposed reduction in generic drug payments will also put the squeeze on pharmacists who provide care in continuing care homes and seniors lodges.
“Pharmacists are telling me that these changes will ensure that they can no longer afford to provide drugs to continuing care centres, leaving the delivery of important drugs to vulnerable seniors at risk,” Towle said. “Is the Health Minister even aware of the damage this government’s policies are creating and does he even know his constant meddling may result in seniors not having access to pharmaceutical care?”
Drumheller-Stettler is an expansive constituency with many independent rural pharmacists and they have informed me of their plight. This will ultimately effect the hospitals and their delivery of services in those communities.
The Wildrose Official Opposition is committed to providing Health Care that upholds the five key principles of the Canada Health Act — health insurance will continue to be publicly administered, comprehensive, universal, portable and accessible.
— FROM THE LEGISLATURE