OFL to Shoppers Drug Mart: stop abusing the public

Federation says Ontario should consider publicly operated pharmacies if giant drug store chain continues its "attack" on patients.

Toronto (14 April 2010) - The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), which represents one million Ontario workers, is demanding that Shoppers Drug Mart stop holding the public to ransom.

“The threatened reductions in store and pharmacy hours announced by Shoppers Drug Mart, as well as its conduct throughout this initiative, will deprive many of the most vulnerable people such as the elderly, cancer and urgent-care patients – and those living in poverty – from accessing the drugs and help they need,” says OFL President Sid Ryan.

“If the attack by Shoppers Drug Mart continues we urge the government to follow Ireland’s example when it was embroiled in the same fight last year and contemplate establishing publicly run pharmacies.”

Ryan noted that the OFL is not prepared to watch this initiative fail and that there are numerous solutions and actions to be discussed with OFL membership.  “In the meantime, if Shoppers Drug Mart refuses to provide services, we are calling on the government to step in.”

The dispute with drug store chains stems from a series of cost-saving measures signalled by Ontario's Liberal government when it brought its March 25 budget.

The budget set a goal to reduce the annual growth of health care spending in Ontario, now totalling about $50 billion a year, from 6% to 3%.

Less than two weeks later the province said it wanted to cut the cost of generic drugs distributed through the Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB), which covers mainly the elderly and some disabled people.

Generic drugs are overpriced

Generic drugs currently sell for about half the price of brand-name equivalents. However, the province says this level remains too high and should be cut again by half – to about 25% of the level of brand-name drug prices. It estimates this would save $500 million a year or about 1% of the province's total annual health care bill.

The change is to apply initially to drugs distributed through the ODB. It would be phased in over a period of time for drugs covered by private insurance programs and citizens who have no drug coverage.

The province also plans to ban the $800 million in "professional allowances" that generic drug makers pay Ontario pharmacies to stock their products. The move has angered big pharmacy chains and independent operators alike. They say they will have to make drastic changes in order to survive if the changes are implemented as planned.

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE