Ontario Pharmacy Funding Gap Getting Worse

Pharmacies Forced to Rely More on Indirect Funding from Manufacturers

TORONTO, Nov. 23 /CNW/ - Ontario's chronic underfunding of pharmacy care has created a large and growing "funding gap". It is the difference between the cost to provide pharmacy services to patients covered by the Ontario Drug Benefit program (ODB), and the direct prescription compensation provided by the government. The funding gap is increasing each year, forcing community pharmacies to rely increasingly on indirect funding from drug manufacturers, in order to continue to provide patient care and services.

Between 2002 and 2008, the funding gap for a typical community pharmacy grew by 80%, to more than $100,000. For patients covered by the ODB, the province allows a payment to pharmacists of only $7 to dispense a prescription and counsel a patient on its proper use, one of the lowest such fees in Canada.

An independent study commissioned last year by the Ontario Pharmacists' Association and the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores (CACDS) showed that the actual cost to pharmacies to provide services for one prescription is $13.77, almost twice the amount actually set by the province.

The funding gap is compounded by the fact there is no government funding at all for most of the additional services pharmacies provide to patients, such as patient education clinics, blood pressure monitoring, telephone counseling and prescription delivery to seniors' homes.

"Ontario has set one of the lowest dispensing fees in Canada, and that fee has increased only 56 cents in 20 years," said Dean Miller, Chair of the Ontario Pharmacists' Association. "The result is a funding gap that's been getting bigger every year. In order to cover rising costs, community pharmacies are depending more and more on indirect revenue from professional allowances paid by drug manufacturers. That's a funding model that doesn't make a lot of sense, and it has to be fixed on an urgent basis."

Pharmacy is working with the provincial government to address the problem and establish a new compensation system that pays pharmacists reasonable fees for dispensing and additional health care services. On August 24, 2009, Ontario's Community Pharmacies (OCPh) submitted to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care a proposal that would secure $1.6 billion in savings to the Ontario drug system, provide stable and predictable pharmacy funding, and ensure patient access to and quality of care. A joint Ministry-pharmacy working group is now reviewing the OCPh proposal.

"Pharmacies are very concerned about the funding gap and the forced reliance on professional allowances," said Ben Shenouda, President of the Independent Pharmacists of Ontario. "Under the current system, professional allowances provide a safety net to help cover the cost of running a pharmacy and providing patient care not covered by the direct government fees. But this is indirect and uncertain funding that is tied to generic drug prices, which the government can change at any time. To keep providing accessible patient care and to invest in future services, pharmacies need a stable, predictable funding model that provides direct and fair compensation to pharmacies. We are hoping that the government will agree with the need to address the funding gap as quickly as possible."

About Ontario's Community Pharmacies

The Ontario's Community Pharmacies coalition is the unified voice of community pharmacy in Ontario, representing independent owner-operated stores, "banner" groups of independently-owned stores that work together, as well as large and small pharmacy chains. The coalition is supported by the associations and organizations that represent both the profession and the neighbourhood business of pharmacy, including the Ontario Pharmacists' Association, the Independent Pharmacists of Ontario, the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores and the Ontario Chain Drug Association.

SOURCE ONTARIO'S COMMUNITY PHARMACIES

For further information: For further information: Dean Miller, Chair, Ontario Pharmacists' Association, Office: (416) 490-2923, Mobile: (647) 226-2923; Ben Shenouda, President, Independent Pharmacists of Ontario, Mobile: (416) 566-7258

Organization Profile

ONTARIO'S COMMUNITY PHARMACIES

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