Fair Drug Prices Now a Reality for Nova Scotians

January 30, 2012

NOTE: The following is an op-ed piece by Health and Wellness Minister Maureen MacDonald

More than a year ago, government embarked on an effort aimed at lowering the price of generic drugs for Nova Scotians. We undertook this to make generic drugs more affordable and prices in line with those paid by people in other provinces. Nova Scotians were paying some of the highest prices in the world for generic drugs and that needed to change.

Now, more than a year after we embarked on this work, Nova Scotians are paying less for most prescriptions of generic drugs at the pharmacy counter.

I’m very pleased to report that all Nova Scotians are paying the new, lower prices, regardless of whether they have coverage through a private insurance plan, the province’s Pharmacare program, or pay cash for their prescription drugs.

Starting on Wednesday, Feb. 1, Nova Scotians will see savings on most generic drugs at pharmacies once more as the second stage of our plan goes into effect. The majority of generic drugs are now priced at 40 per cent of the cost of the equivalent brand name drug, down from 45 per cent, which went into effect last summer. In the final step, prices will go down to 35 per cent of the brand drug, which is where it will stay.

Our fair drug pricing plan is making life more affordable for Nova Scotians by lowering the price of generic drugs. For example, before the plan went into effect, a Nova Scotia senior paid $41.35 for a three month supply of simvastatin (80mg), a generic drug prescribed to lower cholesterol. As of Feb. 1, the same senior now pays $31.91. This person will see further savings when the price goes down again in August.

Taking action to control rapidly growing drug costs is critically important. As a province, our spending on prescription drugs almost doubled in the past eight years and we need to keep this dramatic growth in check. We’re working hard to live within our means. Through this plan, we’re getting a better deal for families, seniors, individuals and taxpayers who expect us to maximize the use of every health dollar.

Nova Scotians who need generic drugs are spending less. Taxpayers are also spending less on prescription drugs through Pharmacare. This year, we’re on track to spend $6 million less on drugs than we would have without these changes.

More than 200,000 Nova Scotians — seniors, families and people who need our help most — count on Pharmacare. Our population is aging, and more and more Nova Scotians are going to be relying on Seniors’ Pharmacare for help with drug costs. We want to make sure Pharmacare is there for those who need it today and in the future. Through these measures, we’re taking the steps necessary to make sure it is.