TORONTO - Some pharmacists are willing to sit down and talk about the government's proposed changes to Ontario's prescription drugs system, Health Minister Deb Matthews said Tuesday, suggesting there's a glimmer of hope in the long-standing battle.
"I sure want to talk to the pharmacists, they've cancelled two meetings, they told me they wouldn't be available until late May, but then I did get a letter from (The Ontario Pharmacists Association)saying it's time to sit down," Matthews said.
"I very much want to sit down with pharmacists and talk about what services they could provide and what would be fair compensation for them."
That small step is unlikely to end the ongoing battle, however, since The Coalition of Community Pharmacies, which has been the strongest opponent to the changes, still disagrees with the proposal.
Ben Shenouda of the Independent Pharmacists Association said the coalition wanted Matthews to extend the deadline for responses and re-open negotiations into the changes, but she hasn't given any indication she's willing to do so.
"The two groups are not different when it comes to the objectives, but we are against the fact that she would ask for OPA only, without the other stakeholders who will be heavily impacted by this regulation," Shenouda said.
"We believe that we can provide a solution which can maintain the level of service we have now to seniors and Ontarians, give the government enough savings and in the meantime, maintain the economic viability of the pharmacies."
The government announced a plan to eliminate so-called professional allowances earlier this month, in a move it claims will cut the price of generic drugs by at least 50 per cent, knocking $500 million a year off the cost to the province's public drug plan for seniors and others.
Pharmacists say that will mean reduced services, a decrease that will hit seniors the hardest because two-thirds of them are on five different medications or more.