Hart defends drug mark ups

Health Minister Glenn Hart isn't worried about the high mark-ups charged on prescription drugs by Yukon's pharmacists.

Health Minister Glenn Hart isn’t worried about the high mark-ups charged on prescription drugs by Yukon’s pharmacists.

An audit of Hart’s department flagged these prices as one reason for the territory’s spiraling health-care costs. The last deal struck between the government and pharmacists was supposed to have expired 14 years ago.

Yukoners pay some of the highest prescription drug mark-ups in the country – prices that pharmacists defend based on the high cost of operating in the North. But Hart’s in no hurry to strike a new deal.

“We’re served in the territory by pharmacists that do a reasonably good job, and we don’t want to put that in jeopardy. It’s hard enough to get pharmacists to come to the Yukon as it is.”

Instead, the territory is working to strike a drug purchasing agreement with Canada’s western provinces. It’s hoped that this bulk-buying scheme would help drive down prices.

Hart’s also pushed Ottawa to create a national drug strategy for the past six years. Such a deal would ensure “the guys in Ontario are paying the same price you’re paying here in the Yukon.”

Hart concedes his petitions, to date, “haven’t been too successful.”

“But, it’s something that’s going to have to happen sooner or later, because the cost of drugs are so high.”

Hart had no estimate of when the bulk-buying deal would be struck. “There is no timeline. If I gave you a timeline, it would be wrong.”

But he was firm on one thing: the territory is not considering the introduction of out-of-pocket health expenses. “I’d say premiums are still off the table.”