OFL applauds “gutsy” move by Health Minister to lower generic drug prices

The Ontario Federation of Labour, Canada’s largest labour federation representing one million workers, enthusiastically welcomed last week’s reform announced by Ontario’s Health and Long Term Care Minister. OFL President Sid Ryan, who was one of the speakers at the media conference to support the initiative, told reporters that for workers, retirees, people who rely on Ontario’s Drug Benefit Program, and the general public, lower pricing and expanded access is great news.

A case in point was the announcement by the Ontario Teachers Insurance Plan that it would be able to offer its member access to more drugs and better health services.

“That’s exactly the response we hope to see more of,” said Ryan who noted that Ontario residents have been squeezed for too long by the scandalous costs of drugs.

But Shoppers Drug Mart and its allies are doing everything possible to sink the initiative. While citing concern for “patient care,“ Shoppers has placed patients and consumers at risk in its fight to retain its profits. Londoners are the first to get caught in the front lines as the big pharmacy chain cuts hours in seven of its locales and imposes new charges for delivery – a measure no doubt aimed squarely at seniors and the elderly.

“We are astonished at the lengths that Shoppers Drug Mart is prepared to go to obstruct the publics’ health and well-being,” says Ryan. “If they continue to block patient care, the labour movement may have no alternative but to discuss the possibility of a boycott. This is a serious matter and, once begun, a boycott is a difficult response to turn back.” The OFL is preparing an Open Letter to Shoppers Drug Mart, the big chains and the generic drug companies warning them not to stand in the way of this life-saving initiative.

“We are not prepared to allow you to sabotage patient care and the best interests of workers, seniors and retirees, plan members, low income Ontario residents and the public at large,” noted Ryan in the Open Letter. You enjoy the PRIVILEGE, not the right, to consumer loyalty. If these attempts to hold the public hostage really do go ahead, we have no alternative but to begin discussing the possibility of a province-wide boycott of stores engaging in such actions. Under no circumstances should those requiring medicines face barriers to access.”

Media releases and backgrounders relating to this issue can be found on the OFL website: www.ofl.ca. Your statements of support are welcome and can be emailed to: [email protected]

Keywords: drugs, pricing