Canadian provinces to cut generic payments

Canadian generic drug makers expressed dismay over a new plan to reduce reimbursements for a half-dozen generic medications in most of the country's provinces. According to published reports, a group of premiers had reached a coordinated deal to reduce the prices their governments paid for six generic drugs, hoping to save the provinces nearly $100 million.

Quebec did not take part; that province announced in November 2012 the elimination of its "15-year rule," a rule unique to the province that required its prescription drug plan to reimburse the price of the original drug even after patent expiration had made cheaper generics available. Currently, provinces pay between 25% and 40% of the cost of branded drugs for six key generics, but under the deal, they will pay 18% starting in April.

The drugs are the generic versions of Pfizer's cholesterol drug Lipitor (atorvastatin); King Pharmaceuticals' blood pressure drug Altace (ramipril); Pfizer's antidepressant Effexor (venlafaxine); Pfizer's angina drug Norvasc (amlodipine); AstraZeneca's gastroesophageal reflux disease drug Prilosec (omeprazole); and Eisai and Johnson & Johnson's GERD drug Aciphex (rabeprazole).

While praising a decision by the provincial governments not to pursue a plan to tender for generic drugs, the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association was displeased with the reimbursement reduction.

"CGPA is pleased that provincial governments have decided not to proceed with tendering for generic pharmaceutical products. Tendering for generic drugs could result in drug shortages and delayed savings to Canada's healthcare system." CGPA president Jim Keon said. "We are, however, disappointed by the provincial governments' announcement of further cuts to retail or reimbursed prices for generic prescription medicines."

While generics account for 80% of dispensed prescriptions in the United States, the equivalent rate in Canada is more than 60%, according to IMS Health.

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