Canadian employers now insist on generics

For the first time, two of Canada's biggest health insurance companies are going to require that generics be prescribed in any case where there is one. While government programs have had the same requirement in place for years, private employer plans have not.

The new move by Sun Life and Great West Life seems partly aimed at the growing practice of drugmakers making coupons available that lower the cost of branded drugs for consumers but not for insurance companies. Coupons have been one avenue for makers of branded drugs to try to hold onto market share when copycats of the best-selling drugs get launched.

"Employers are basically seeking ways to make sure their drug plans are sustainable in the long term," Dave Jones, a Sun Life vice president, tells the National Post. "The average script for a [brand-name] drug in Canada is 72 bucks, and the average script for a generic is $27."

Jones tells the newspaper that for some unknown reason the company has seen a rise in the number of doctors insisting on branded products over generics.

The pharmaceutical industry has complained about the change. "We are concerned about patients having the choice to use the medication they are most comfortable with and that benefits them the most," Shannon MacDonald, vice president of Canada's Research-based Pharmaceutical Companies trade group, tells the newspaper.

Jones says if doctors provide a medical reason why a patient needs a branded drug, then patients can get it. Also, he points out, consumers may always pay the extra cost themselves.

- read the National Post story 

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