Monday, May 10, 2010

Government preparing to cushion the blow of pharmacy closings

From the Globe and Mail:
From the outset of Ontario’s drug wars, Dalton McGuinty’s government has been unapologetic about the fact that some pharmacies will be forced to close as a result of its reforms.

There’s little to suggest that a month-long public relations fight with pharmacists has done much to alter the Liberals’ thinking. But as the battle enters its final stages, the government seems to be preparing a concession – probably part of the game plan all along – aimed at limiting just how many of the stores will be forced under.

Government and industry sources suggest that the likeliest “give” will be some form of transitional fund, along the lines of what Alberta provided when it undertook more modest pharmacy changes.

The idea would be to provide short-term funding to give drugstores a chance to shift their model toward one in which more of their revenue comes from providing additional publicly funded health-care services, such as extensive consultations. (At present, their profits come largely from “professional allowances” – the payments from generic drug manufacturers in return for stocking their products, which the government plans to eliminate in order to achieve lower prices.)

What shape that funding will take, exactly, will likely be announced before this month is out. The obvious challenge for Health Minister Deb Matthews between now and then is to figure out how best to show she’s listened to complaints about her reforms, without cutting too deep into the province’s savings from lower prices. ...more

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