Dear Minister Petipas Taylor:
Re: Pharmaceutical Corporations Secret Kickbacks to Pharmacies
Members of the National Pensioners Federation, which represents some 800,000 Canadian seniors, were shocked to learn from a recent CBC Fifth Estate program that many if not all pharmaceutical corporations in Ontario are driving up the costs of generic drugs by paying pharmacists kickbacks of 50% to 70% over the actual cost of a drug. The new inflated cost of the drug is then passed on to us, older adults and taxpayers.
The CBC investigation, which secretly filmed several pharmacy owners requesting a “rebate” from a CBC representative that they believed was representing a drug company, is irrefutable. And although the practice is illegal in Ontario, it is thriving and likely flourishing unchecked across Canada. The 2019 conviction of COSTCO and the payment of a fine of $7.25 million for demanding rebates for their 29 Ontario Pharmacies may be a partial deterrent but it is very unusual.
We know that 10 percent or more of Canadians cannot afford to buy the prescription drugs they need to keep well. By demanding and accepting kickbacks that increase the cost of drugs, pharmacists as well as pharmaceutical corporations contribute to ill-health and the cost of health care in general.
We wonder why the Ontario College of Pharmacists, the mandate of which is “to serve and protect the public” has so clearly failed to protect the public from such widespread, illegal and harmful practices. These secret dealings are fraudulent and also undermine the trust that many seniors have in their pharmacists’ integrity and in any advice they provide.
We wonder why, the federal regulatory agency, the Competition Bureau of Canada conducted an investigation into kickbacks to pharmacists and then cancelled it.
In July 2018, as two provinces prepared to force more transparency, ten of the largest Canadian pharmaceutical companies disclosed that they paid almost $75 million to doctors and health care organizations in the previous year. That they “incentivize” doctors is not new but now we are finding out that these companies are also providing operational funding and other incentives to orphan disease patient groups and also to other non-profit health associations, including seniors organizations, so they will promote these companies’ drugs and as well as lobby with governments for the addition of their drugs to provincial formularies.
As Minister of Health, you are responsible for the health and well being of all Canadians. These drug companies’ practices that drive up health care costs and succeed in corrupting pharmacists, doctors, and non-profit citizen groups in order to increase profits need to be stopped immediately.
We therefore request that you act immediately to establish a public Inquiry into these drug company practices that add to health care costs and that are debasing many health professionals and otherwise decent members of our society.
On behalf of our membership we await your reply.
National Pensioners Federation