WINNIPEG — Winnipeggers on low incomes might not save money on dispensing fees even if the provincial government decides to force pharmacies to disclose how much they charge.
Dave Mouland said his annual pension income is low enough that when he goes to a pharmacy he pays the full cost of the first $325 to $400 worth of drugs, but anything beyond that is picked up by the province’s pharmacare program.
But Mouland, who pays a fee of $12.04 at Pharma Plus for each of his prescriptions, said it might not make sense for him to shop around.
“I go to my local pharmacy because I can walk there,” Mouland said. “There’s certainly a difference between a Shoppers (Drug Mart) and a local pharmacy, but it is a matter if you can get to one. There’s no point in me paying $4 to $5 in bus fare to get there if you’re only going to save the same amount.”
Social Planning Council of Winnipeg policy and program analyst Marianne Cerilli agrees.
“Any time people are going to know the full cost before they pay is positive so they can compare prices,” Cerilli said. “But people might not have a vehicle or they might not have access to the Internet to know the price. The savings aren’t relative if they are worth less than the cost of the trip.”
Earlier this week, a spokesman for Consumer Protection Minister Ron Lemieux said the government is looking into how to make the dispensing fees pharmacies charge more transparent.
It comes after delegates at a recent NDP policy convention passed a non-binding resolution calling on the government to force pharmacies to display their dispensing fees.
According to a report and review from Telus Health, dispensing fees in Manitoba from July to December 2013 range from a low of $4.47 at Costco to a high of $14.67 at CounterCare. The provincial government has said before that even people who don’t have memberships at Costco can fill their prescriptions there because of licensing requirements.
Cerilli, who admits she gets her prescriptions at CounterCare, said now that she knows the dispensing fee she may get them elsewhere.
“Holy cow — I didn’t realize there is such a disparity,” she said.
» Winnipeg Free Press