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High generic drug prices "a big problem," says health minister
Politics Watch News Services
October 29, 2007, updated 5:35 p.m.

Health Minister Tony Clement and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. 

OTTAWA  (PoliticsWatch.com) —  Canada's high generic drug prices are "a big problem" that warrants the federal and provincial governments reforming Canada's drug system, Health Minister Tony Clement said Monday.    

Clement made the comments in reaction to the release of a Competition Bureau of Canada study that concluded Canadians could be paying less for generic versions of drugs. 

In its report, the bureau said: "Competition by generic manufacturers to offer lower prices through rebates is not reflected in prices paid by either public or private plans, or out of pocket. Rather, until recently, prices paid for generic drugs across the country tended to reflect the maximum generic drug prices allowed under Ontario's drug plan."

The health minister told reporters after question period that the Competition Bureau's findings are a "big problem."

"As I say, generic drugs in Canada are too costly and even if we could reform that part of our drug system, that could in turn generate savings that could be reapplied for other medications," said Clement.

"My point has always been to provinces and territories rather than expecting Ottawa to cut a cheque, let's reform together our, our generics industry and our brand name drugs industry and we can find some savings so we can pay for the drugs in the future," Clement said 

It is not the first time that Clement has criticized the high cost of generics in Canada.

Earlier this year, Clement cited the higher cost of Canada's generic drugs as one of the reasons why Canadian legislation designed to send cheaper generic copies of AIDS drugs to developing nations had failed to deliver a single pill in three years. 

Clement said he would raise the issue with his provincial counterparts who are involved in the National Pharmaceutical Strategy (NPS). 

According to Health Canada documents obtained by PoliticsWatch under the Access to Information Act, one of the ideas the NPS is considering is action to influence "the prescribing behaviour of health care professionals." 

When asked by PoliticsWatch if such a system should recommend doctors not prescribe generic drugs when the price is too high, Clement said, "if the provinces and territories want to do that, I encourage it."

"I don't have a direct relationship with medical professionals. That's not my job as federal minister of health."

:  Related Links

Rwanda will only accept Canadian generics if price is right
(September 26, 2007)

The effectiveness of Canada's Access to Medicines Regime to deliver drugs to developing countries is again being put the test, PoliticsWatch has learned.  

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