Alberta is changing its deal with generic drug makers to push the cost of such prescriptions from the highest in Canada to the lowest.

This change has national implications that could affect generic drug prices in other provinces, especially Quebec, which is guaranteed the lowest rate on generic drugs in Canada because of its contract with drug makers.

Starting immediately, the government says the cost of new generic drugs in Alberta is dropping to 45 per cent of the cost of name-brand drugs, creating annual savings of $50 million.

And the province is negotiating with drug makers on reducing prices for existing generic drugs.

Health Minister Ron Liepert expects the new rate to be in the 45 per cent range as well, saving an additional $150 million a year.

The savings will be split evenly between consumers and the government itself, which spends $1.2 billion a year on various drug plans.

Albertans have been paying the highest generic drug prices in Canada, at 75 per cent of the brand-name drug price.

Liepert was vague on why this price gap has existed for several years.

“Good question,” he said. “I guess it’s a lot of things like in health care.

“It needs addressing and we’re addressing it.”