The federal government announced Monday that the cost of a generic drug could fall by up to $50 a month if a company pays the same amount to make it available in Canada.
That would mean Canadians will be able to get a cheaper generic drug for a longer period of time, according to Health Minister Rona Ambrose.
The move is a major blow to the industry, which was hoping to be able do a quick fix to the drug coverage problem by offering the cheaper generic version of a medicine on its website within a few weeks.
But Ambrose said the government has decided to wait to make that decision until after the fall campaign is over.
She said in a statement the drug will be available to Canadians “as soon as we are confident that generic drug manufacturers have fully funded the program.”
“While we are pleased to have reached a deal with generic drug makers, we must continue to work with manufacturers to ensure that they continue to receive fair pricing, the same protections for generics as we do for medicines and devices,” Ambrose said.
The deal will allow generic drugmakers to offer generic versions of medicines in Canada without the additional costs of manufacturing and distributing them in the country.
But it does not mean generic drugs will be priced lower.
Ambrose said that while generic drugs can cost about $10 a bottle to make in Canada, some generic makers will have to pay a higher price.
“For some generics, they may have to lower the price by 50 per cent to make the product in Canada,” she said.
Health Minister Ronna McNeil said it will be a “big step forward” for the generic drug industry, and that it will help ensure the government is “committed to the long-term health of Canadians.”
The federal government said it is providing a $50 monthly cap on the price of a generics drug to Canadians who have a prescription for it, and it will apply to generic drugs made by generic drugmaker AstraZeneca, Merck, Sanofi and Pfizer.
That will mean Canadians would have to shell out $50 each month to buy a generic of a drug that they already have.
The government said the cap will last until the fall election.
It is also making the government more transparent about its plans for generals.
Ambrose announced that the department will be offering its information on generic drug prices online and on Twitter, and the government will be sharing its information with health care providers.
The government said Monday it is also providing a list of generic drug companies it expects to be making the drugs available to Canadian citizens.
Health officials have been trying to fix the drug pricing problem in Canada for years.
In 2013, the government passed legislation to raise the cost for a generic version and then to make generic drugs available in pharmacies.
The legislation was designed to help the generic manufacturers, who are also the biggest users of the country’s drug supply.
It was supposed to have taken effect in 2018.