Unacceptable cuts to pharmacy threaten patient care in Ontario

TORONTO, April 8 /CNW/ - The Ontario Pharmacists' Association is deeply concerned that patient care by pharmacists will be at risk following yesterday's government announcement of planned funding cuts.

"Together with other associations, we have been working tirelessly to protect the business of pharmacy while enabling the profession to do more. Despite our efforts, the government was unwilling to work with us to find a mutually acceptable solution prior to its announcement yesterday. This is a very unfortunate and unacceptable outcome," said Dean Miller, Chair of the Board of Directors, Ontario Pharmacists' Association.

Yesterday, the Ontario government announced plans to further reform the province's drug system. The proposed changes would end professional allowances, while providing some partial compensation to pharmacists for professional services and modest increases in dispensing fees.

"The decision to reduce generic drug pricing and eliminate professional allowances would significantly outweigh the increase in dispensing fees or future professional services, making the provision of healthcare services by our members extremely difficult," said Dennis Darby, CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists' Association. "It would also have long-term negative implications for the profession and the business that supports it."

For all generic drugs purchased through Ontario's public drug plan, generic drug prices would be reduced by 50 per cent, to 25 per cent of the cost of the original brand name drug. Over the next three years the cost of generic drugs purchased out-of-pocket or through private employer drug plans would be reduced by more than 50 per cent, to 25 per cent of the cost of the original brand name drug. By 2014, generic drugs in Ontario would be sold for no more than 25 per cent of the cost of the original brand name drug.

Pending legislative approval, all professional allowances paid by generic companies to pharmacy owners for drugs purchased through the Ontario Drug Benefit Program would be immediately eliminated. All other professional allowances would be phased out and completely eliminated by 2014.

"These funds are critical to helping pay for patient care not covered by dispensing fees," Miller said. "We were very concerned to hear comments made by the government that suggest that pharmacists have used professional allowances inappropriately, implicating the whole profession for the misdeeds of a small number of individuals."

The unfortunate elements of yesterday's announcement significantly overshadow any positive news, he added.

Under the proposal, all dispensing fees paid by the Ontario government would increase by at least $1 for every Ontario Drug Benefit prescription filled, effective immediately. In the following years, dispensing fees paid by the Ontario government would increase annually by 2.5 per cent. Another $150 million, including a new $100 million fund, would compensate pharmacy owners for the professional services pharmacists provide to Ontarians. Within this funding, money would be dedicated to rural pharmacy services and long-term care pharmacy services.

"We have worked hard to expand the range of professional services now available to pharmacy, unfortunately given the reductions in funding resulting from the proposed decrease in generic drug prices and the elimination of professional allowances, it looks extremely difficult for pharmacists to provide the expanded range of services the government wants them to provide under Bill 179," Darby said. "This is extremely unfortunate, for pharmacists and for their patients." The association is urging the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to ensure both the business and the practice of pharmacy are supported by a framework sufficient for both to succeed.

The Ontario Pharmacists' Association is the professional association that represents the views and interests of more than 11,000 pharmacists and pharmacists-in-training across the province. The association works to inspire excellence in the profession and practice of pharmacy, and to promote wellness for patients.

SOURCE Ontario Pharmacists' Association

For further information: For further information: or to arrange an interview please contact Lindsay George at (416) 441-0788 ext. 4236 or Deborah McNorgan at (416) 441-0788 ext. 4266, (416) 523-3446

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Ontario Pharmacists' Association

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