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Province Takes Step to Get Fair Drug Prices

The province will gather input on a plan to get fair prescription drug prices for seniors and others who get help with drug costs through Pharmacare programs.

Seniors and families enrolled in Pharmacare programs would pay less for prescriptions at the counter. Fair drug prices are also expected to lower the cost of the Pharmacare programs for taxpayers.

“As part of our commitment to make health care better and life more affordable, we want to ensure Nova Scotians are able to afford the prescription drugs they need,” Health Minister Maureen MacDonald, said on Monday.

The province will meet with groups, including community pharmacies, doctors, medical staff at district health authorities and seniors groups, as well as drug manufacturers, to get their input.

“It is not fair that Nova Scotians pay more for prescription drugs than people in other developed countries and some provinces,” said Ms. MacDonald. “Our Pharmacare costs have almost doubled over the past eight years and, as a province, we simply cannot afford to continue on this path. This plan is aimed at getting better prices and containing the growth of drug costs so we can continue to afford Pharmacare into the future.”

Without measures to contain drug costs, they are expected to grow by seven per cent in 2010-11, to more than $300 million.

“We look forward to the opportunity to provide input on a plan to get better prices on prescription drugs for Nova Scotia seniors,” said Bill VanGorder, president, CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons) Nova Scotia chapter. “CARP is in full support for government initiatives to reduce generic drug prices for the almost 10,000 Nova Scotian seniors that we represent.”

As an interim measure, the province announced it will issue a request for proposal for atorvastatin, the generic form of Lipitor, to be supplied by manufacturers at a price requested by the province. The drug, commonly prescribed to treat high cholesterol, is the most costly for the Pharmacare programs. The goal is to get a better price on this one drug for Nova Scotians eligible for coverage through Pharmacare and better value for taxpayers while taking time to get input on the province’s plan.

Nova Scotia’s Pharmacare programs include: Seniors’ Pharmacare, Family Pharmacare and Department of Community Services Pharmacare.

“The impact of increased costs to the Pharmacare programs must be continually monitored to ensure it remains affordable and in place,” said Bernie LaRusic, chair of the Group of IX Nova Scotia Seniors Organizations. “This is an area the Group of IX has been advocating for some time.”

Last year, Pharmacare helped more than 200,000 Nova Scotians with prescription drug costs, funded more than 6,000 drugs, helped pay for five million prescriptions at a cost of more than $285 million.

For more information, visit www.gov.ns.ca/health/fairdrugprices.

Nova Scotians can provide input by e-mail to fairdrugprices@gov.ns.ca, or by mail to Fair Drug Prices, c/o Pharmaceutical Services, Department of Health, P.O. Box 488, Halifax, N.S., B3J 2R8.

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