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Cheaper generic drugs yield savings for Yukon

The Yukon government is starting to see dividends from a national plan to reduce the cost of generic and brand name prescription drugs nationwide.

The Yukon government is starting to see dividends from a national plan to reduce the cost of generic and brand name prescription drugs nationwide.

The savings are a result of the progress made by the Health Care Innovation Working Group, a group composed of provincial and territorial ministers.

Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski is co-chair of the working group along with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

In the past year, the group has successfully negotiated lower prices for 10 common generic drugs – six in 2013 and four in 2014 – such as ones for cardiac-related conditions, stomach complaints and depression, according to Health spokesperson Pat Living.

Across Canada, the annual savings on those drugs is estimated to be $150 million per year. It remains unclear what the Yukon’s savings are.

The first six generic drugs were reduced to 18 per cent the cost of their name-brand equivalents. That meant savings of roughly $300,000 in the 2013-14 fiscal year, according Living.

The largest savings were already felt after April 1 last year, Living said, and would have been noticed by people paying full price for their medications.

Despite the progress to offer cheaper prescription drugs to Yukoners, only a small portion of the population will “see” the savings first hand, she added.

“It is less obvious to patients if they have private insurance and only pay 20 per cent of the price,” she said in an email.

“Between Yukon’s public plans providing coverage for cardiac-related conditions as well as mental health conditions, and the increasing number of citizens with private insurance through their work, few people actually pay full price for these medications.”

Living said prices will be cut for even more generic drugs in 2015 and 2016, despite the generic manufacturers’ opposition.

The group also created the Pan-Canadian Pricing Alliance to negotiate prices for name brand drugs, and Pasloski said that represents savings of $113 million annually.

“With the recent addition of Quebec (to the group), that adds another 22 per cent of the population,” he said.

“The savings are going to be that much more pronounced and we’re reinvesting that money into health care.”

The group has also been working on appropriateness of care, and how to improve practices to ensure that patients are receiving the treatment best suited for their actual needs.

“We’re ensuring that we’re using evidence-based knowledge to determine what are appropriate tests to be doing for various types of diseases,” Pasloski said.

The last area in which the group has worked on is senior care.

Pasloski said it’s important to keep elders in their homes and communities for as long as possible, something he calls “aging in place.”

“We’re looking at ways people can manage their own health care when they transition out of the hospital back to their homes,” he said.

The group is also working on dementia care with the Alzheimer’s Association of Canada, in order to identify the best practices for early diagnosis and treatment.

Contact Myles Dolphin at