Pharmacy fight hits Alberta legislature

Momentum appears to be gaining as Alberta pharmacies, including those in Stettler, draw public attention to

Momentum appears to be gaining as Alberta pharmacies, including those in Stettler, draw public attention to the “sizeable revenue reductions” that pharmacies say they would endure under a new provincial plan.

The provincial budget calls for cuts to the pricing of generic drugs.

This Monday at the legislature, pharmacy representatives presented a petition with almost 25,000 signatures in support of local pharmacies.

Scott Savage, owner and pharmacist at Stettler Value Drug Mart, said his pharmacy is among those in Stettler collecting signatures for the petition.

“I am quite impressed with the number of people who have signed,” he said.

The petition-signing process is ongoing, as pharmacy representatives say they’ll continue to forward them to the government and lobby for change.

The petition was initiated by a group of community-based pharmacists to bring light to the issues surrounding the recent budget cuts and their impact on the health care of Albertans.

The pharmacists expressed immediate concern that the new budget would gravely affect their ability to provide patients with the quality of care they require and deserve.

“Sometimes you wonder if it will do any good, but it’s0 better than standing by and not saying anything,” Savage said.

He’s hopeful the efforts of the pharmacy group will have some impact on the government to re-visit generic drug pricing.

“We have a good bunch representing the pharmacies,” Savage said. “We are in pretty good hands.”

Three Stettler pharmacies joined counterparts province-wide a few weeks ago in closing their businesses for one hour in protest of the cut.

“The government of Alberta’s imposed reduction in generic drug prices has created a funding gap for community pharmacies,” Stony Plain pharmacist Kit Poon said in a news release.

“This will soon result in patients having less access to their community pharmacist or they will be forced to pay out of their own pockets for services that have been provided at no direct cost to patients across the province of Alberta. As not all Albertans are able to pay for these services, service reductions will occur that will see Albertans obtaining less counselling from their pharmacist on health-related matters, longer wait times, increased emergency room and hospital visits, more trips to the doctor, and overall, less effective medication therapy. Patient care and services provided by pharmacists will remain in jeopardy until the government finds ways to ensure pharmacist delivered services are protected.”

Pharmacies, particularly in rural Alberta, would face “extreme challenges” maintaining the level of service that has come to be expected by patients, Poon said.

“The funding gap created by the drug pricing changes will require pharmacies with smaller patient bases to decrease operational costs in order to keep their doors open,” said Ron Mattice, a pharmacist from Cold Lake. “At-risk pharmacies will be forced to lay off staff, or worse, may close their doors completely.

“To date, the government has not, in good faith, consulted with pharmacists in Alberta when making decisions that affect them and their patients.”

Pharmacists want the government to return to the bargaining table to negotiate a deal that they believe would work for Albertans.

“Thousands of Albertans have expressed their concern in signing this petition,” Mattice said.

“The government seems to be ignoring pharmacists. Perhaps they better not ignore Albertans.”