FREDERICTON (GNB) – A generic drug pricing policy that will reduce drug costs for all New Brunswickers was announced today by the provincial government.

"Even though generic drugs are cheaper than brand-name drugs, the fact is New Brunswickers are paying more for generic drugs than most of their provincial counterparts," said Health Minister Madeleine Dubé. "The efforts announced today will ensure that all New Brunswickers benefit from more affordable drugs; and pay a similar price for generic drugs as their counterparts in other jurisdictions. The policy will help to ensure the sustainability of drug programs for future beneficiaries."

The policy is part of an overall effort to address rising drug costs, which pose a significant challenge to the New Brunswick health-care system. It will set maximum allowable prices for generic drugs.

The provincial government recognizes that reducing generic drug prices will impact pharmacy revenues. In light of this, the provincial government will reinvest a portion of the savings achieved through the reduction in generic drug prices back into pharmacy services in the following ways:

●    investing about $4.5 million in 2012-13 to increase dispensing fees paid to pharmacists and paying a mark-up on generic drugs to help offset the reductions in revenues that pharmacies receive through rebates from generic drug manufacturers;
●    investing $233,000 to implement NB PharmaCheck, a medication review program, as an insured service under the New Brunswick Prescription Drug Program for which pharmacies can be compensated;
●    investing $295,000 in a rural pharmacy incentive initiative by paying an additional $2 dispensing fee for the first 10,000 provincial prescription drug program prescriptions filled at pharmacies 25 kilometres or more from the next nearest pharmacy; and
●    investing $1.2 million to help offset the costs associated with pharmacies connecting to the provincial Drug Information System / Prescription Monitoring Program, which will improve prescribing and reduce the abuse of prescription drugs.

The provincial government will continue to engage pharmacies by establishing a working group comprising representatives from the Department of Health and the New Brunswick Pharmacists' Association. This group will monitor savings achieved by the policy and to discuss opportunities related to the role of pharmacists in the health-care system.

The provincial government will continue to work to find efficiencies within the provincial prescription drug program to ensure it is sustainable.

This program has a number of mechanisms in place to contain costs, including:

●    an evidence-based drug review process to ensure cost-effective drugs are covered as benefits;
●    special authorization is required for coverage of certain high-cost drugs when lower-cost alternatives have been tried and found unsuitable;
●    narcotics and controlled drugs have annual quantity limits; and
●    the new Drug Information System/Prescription Monitoring Program is being developed, which will improve prescribing and reduce the abuse of prescription drugs.

"All stakeholders – including government, pharmacy, drug manufacturers and drug plan beneficiaries – must work together to find long-term solutions to rising drug costs that are fair to everyone," said Dubé. "If we are to maintain a program that helps New Brunswickers with their drug costs, it needs to be sustainable so it can continue to benefit those who need it for many years to come."