Ottawa keeping its distance as
opposition to Ontario drug plan grows
[PoliticsWatch Posted 4:30 p.m. May 18, 2006]
OTTAWA — Opposition
to the Ontario government's new drug plan is growing but federal
officials are keeping their distance as the row intensifies.
Last month, Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman
introduced Bill 102, a new pharmaceutical strategy for the province's drug plan
that would make it easier for patients to access lower-cost generic
drugs when a brand name drug is available, a so-called
"generics first" policy.
The change is aimed at reducing drug costs for the province, but the
brand-name drug industry estimates it will cost them $1.5 billion in
revenues over the next three years.
Critics of the plan are charging that Smitherman's plan is going to
cost jobs in both Ontario and Canada.
This week, the Coalition of Ontario Pharmacy, which describes itself
as a non-partisan group of pharmacies, pharmacists, patient advocates and health care groups,
sent a letter to Smitherman's boss, Ontario Premier Dalton
McGuinty, to complain about a recent meeting they had with
Ontario's director of the drug system secretariat.
"During the meeting, your director admitted that the government expects
some pharmacies to close as a consequence of Bill 102," wrote Allan
Rajesky of the coalition. "He said that there are currently too many pharmacies in the province."
Concerns about job losses from pharmacists come after the brand name
drug industry made similar comments last month.
In April, Paul Lucas, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline Canada said in a
speech in Mississauga, home of Pill Hill where 400 life science
companies are located, that Bill 102 would put research and
innovation jobs at risk.
"Make no mistake, if the ministry's policy moves forward unchanged, over time, Pill Hill will
deteriorate," Lucas said in his speech.
Smitherman later reacted to Lucas'
comments saying the drug industry should "tone down their
Meanwhile, the Conservative government in Ottawa is keeping its
distance from the opposition to Smitherman's plan and the threats of
Industry Minister Maxime Bernier's office would not comment
on the matter, saying the Tory government wants to respect the jurisdiction of the provincial governments
and the matter is clearly in provincial jurisdiction.
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