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Normandin Beaudry

Québec's policy concerning drugs

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There, in black and white

Bulletin NB Vol 7 N. 23, December 2004

On December 16, 2004, Health and Social Services Minister Philippe Couillard tabled a white paper on Québec’s policy concerning drugs.

Although the main goal of the policy is to explain the principles that will guide future government decisions and actions with respect to drugs, it would appear that some of these principles will definitely have an impact on private group insurance plans.

The 34 ministerial proposals found in the white paper revolve around four main issues: access to drugs, fair and reasonable pricing, optimal use of drugs, and maintaining a thriving pharmaceutical industry in Québec.

One of these proposals is designed to put an end to the policy against increases in the price of prescription drugs. In fact, the government would rather set up a mechanism to supervise price hikes and allow agreements to be made with manufacturers so that compensatory measures can be established. The measures could take a variety of forms, including paying financial compensation to the government each year, obliging the manufacturer to cover the wholesaler’s margin, etc.

While these agreements will only reduce the cost paid by the government, the paper tabled by Minister Couillard states that the government would take the necessary measures to guarantee that private plan members receive the same fair treatment as those who are covered by the public plan.

Another proposal aims to regulate the price of generic drugs (copies of brand name drugs) by limiting the price of the first generic version to 60% of the price of the original, and the limiting price of other generics to 54%.

The various players in the prescription drug industry agree on the fact that the misuse of drugs leads to significant and unnecessary costs. In its effort to optimize medical treatment, the government would prefer to convey the treating physician’s therapeutic intention to the pharmacist, who could then use this information to adjust his intervention.

Other ministerial proposals are along the same lines, including adding an info-drug service to the Info-Santé / CLSC hotline; introducing a range of measures for raising awareness and informing Quebecers; integrating the concept of optimal use in University programs for the various professionals concerned; providing doctors with prescribers’ profiles, so that they can benchmark themselves against peer groups; installing computerized tools for clinicians, etc.

However, it is evident that any change in usage habits among the people targeted by these efforts will only impact the costs of private and public plans in the long term.

The paper will be subject to public consultation through a parliamentary committee, which will begin on March 1, 2005.

Rest assured that we will closely monitor this issue, and will keep you informed of developments.

 

Please feel free to contact us for additional information.

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