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Generic drug costs to drop in April

Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid - Black Press
Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid
— image credit: Black Press

The B.C. government is moving ahead with a new price policy for generic drugs that will reduce the cost by 10 per cent starting April 1.

The new policy sets the price of generic substitutes at 25 per cent of the brand-name product, whether the cost is paid by the B.C. Pharmacare program, private health insurance or the patient. A further reduction to 20 per cent is set to take effect in April 2014.

The health ministry cited the example of Lipitor, a widely prescribed drug for reducing cholesterol. A one-month supply of the brand-name drug costs $55, and in April the cost of a generic equivalent will go from $19 to $15. The 2014 decrease will take it to $11 a month.

Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid said the second reduction will make B.C. generic drug prices the lowest in Canada for some drugs, and save the Pharmacare program about $110 million over the first two years. Ontario went to a 25-per-cent formula two years ago, and has since reduced the price to 20 per cent.

The provincial savings will be reinvested in the B.C. health care system, some of it in Pharmacare, MacDiarmid said. The budget for Pharmacare has risen by about 80 per cent in the past decade, but MacDiarmid said there have been offsetting savings as new drugs improve treatment and reduce the need for surgery.

NDP health critic Mike Farnworth said the B.C. Liberal government has made the right move, but it should have done it in 2010 when Ontario took action.

Now some of the savings are at risk again as the federal government negotiates a trade agreement with the European Union, Farnworth said. European developers of brand-name drugs are seeking to extend patent protection to prevent the sale of generics for a longer period.

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