Pharmacy closures and service cutbacks imminent following recent provincial drug plan changes
MARKHAM, ON, April 9 /CNW/ - Independent pharmacy owners under the Guardian and I.D.A. brands today responded to the McGuinty Liberal Government's announcement regarding plans to further drug reform in the province of Ontario.
Guardian and I.D.A. pharmacy owners are strongly opposed to the drug program changes announced Wednesday by Ontario's Minister of Health and Long-term Care, Deb Matthews. Independent pharmacies are currently re-evaluating their professional practice, operations, and investments to determine the sustainability of their pharmacy practice and capacity to provide patients with a consistently high level of pharmacy services Ontarians have come to trust.
"Community pharmacy plays an integral role in the health and wellness of patients across the province, particularly in rural areas where access to other health care professionals can be limited. Independent pharmacists are a cornerstone of many of these communities and the drug program changes the government plans to implement are an unfortunate turn of events," said Donnie Edwards, Pharmacist and Co-Owner of Boggio & Edwards I.D.A. Pharmacy in Ridgeway, Ontario. "Ontario is home to some of the oldest independent pharmacies, which already operate on limited resources, but always put patient care first. The changes will force many of these pharmacies to reduce their hours, cutback pharmacy services and some will be forced to close all together, which is a huge blow to small communities where the dependency on their local pharmacist is critical."
Yesterday's announcement indicated the province's plans to reduce generic prescription drug prices for patients under the Ontario Drug Benefit Program (ODB) from its current level of 50% of the equivalent brand name price for multi-source generic prescription drug products to 25% of the cost of the brand name equivalent. In addition, prices for generic drugs in the private sector will also be reduced to 25% of brand by 2012. The province also plans to eliminate the current pharmacy reimbursement model of professional allowances paid by generic drug manufacturers to pharmacies.
In community pharmacies across the province, professional allowances are not payments to pharmacies to stock products on their shelves as the government suggests, but are used to fund patient services that the government and private payers do not pay for, such as pharmacist intervention with physicians, educational clinics, compliance packaging, prescription delivery, blood pressure and blood glucose monitoring, medication therapy reviews and vital counseling services such as those used by thousands of patients across the province during the H1N1 outbreak last fall.
"Independent pharmacists have a long-standing history of adapting to change and staying focused on patient care. Although they are business owners, they are pharmacists, first and foremost, tailoring their pharmacy services to the needs of their patients," said Andrew Parkes, President, Drug Trading Company Limited. "Independent pharmacy has been very active in negotiations with the provincial government as part of the Ontario Community Pharmacists Coalition, urging the province to reach a viable solution that will ensure both savings for taxpayers as well as the appropriate funding required to sustain community pharmacy. Despite these discussions, the provincial government has chosen to ignore these strategies, and instead is proposing to completely eliminate one of the key methods of reimbursement for Ontario pharmacies. This approach has put the entire profession and Independent Pharmacy in peril."
The government also suggests it will re-invest a portion of the savings from these reductions back to pharmacies by increasing dispensing fees by $1 for every ODB prescription filled and compensating pharmacists for additional professional services. However, independent pharmacists fear the proposed investments will be insufficient to provide the level of pharmacy service customers have come to expect and will continue to demand in the future as the aging population continues to grow.
"I purchased the business from my father in 1989 and collectively my family has been serving the people of Waterdown for over 87 years. Many of my patients are like an extended family. My commitment to the health of the residents of this community has always been my first priority," said Tim Langford, Pharmacist and Owner of Langford I.D.A. Pharmacy in Waterdown, Ontario. "The changes to the province's drug program will directly impact my business and the pharmacy care my patients have come to expect and need. I'm determined to do whatever I can to continue to serve our patients, but these changes will make it extremely difficult for my business to survive."
About Drug Trading Company Limited
Guardian and I.D.A. pharmacies are members of Canada's oldest and largest independent pharmacy services provider, Drug Trading Company Limited. Drug Trading's banner retail programs provide independent pharmacy members with programs and services to help compete in the marketplace with a special emphasis on pharmacy service, merchandising, marketing, home health care and technology services.
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