New Policy Lowers Patient Costs, Saves Taxpayers Millions

Albertans taking acid reflux medication will see drug costs go down by as much as $82 a year, but with the same health outcomes thanks to a new policy that will save taxpayers $40 million over three years.

These medications, known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), keep the stomach from making too much acid. Clinical research shows all drugs in this class are equally effective.

Starting in February 2017, coverage will be provided only for the lowest cost medications, which are the generic versions of Pariet (rabeprazole) and Tecta (pantoprazole magnesium). Patients who switch to the lower cost medication will have a lower co-payment and will save up to $82.48 annually in out-of-pocket costs, depending on which medication they currently take.

“Alberta patients expect us to deliver health care based on the best available evidence, and this change does just that. Experts agree that lower cost proton pump inhibitors give patients the same health outcomes as more expensive drugs. We have put a four-month transition period in place to support patients, and I encourage them to discuss their treatment with their physicians.”

Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Health


The government has made this change based on the evidence and advice of expert bodies from across Canada including:


“The goal of publically funded health care systems is to maximize the health benefit realized for every dollar spent. It simply doesn’t make sense to spend extra for medications that provide no benefit over lower cost medication; these health care resources are better deployed where they provide value to taxpayers and health care plan participants.”

Dr. Scott Klarenbach, Chair of the Expert Committee


“At CADTH we believe that credible, objective evidence should inform every important health care decision. Our research shows that all PPIs at equivalent doses work equally well for the treatment of acid-related gastrointestinal conditions. We’re pleased that our research is helping to inform Canada’s policy decisions and contributing to the sustainability of our health care system.”


Patients who choose to use a higher cost proton pump inhibitor will be required to pay the cost difference. Coverage for higher cost drugs may be available for the few patients who cannot tolerate the lower cost versions.

This change is expected to save approximately $3 million in 2016-2017 and $40 million over the next three years.

This change will affect the approximately 194,000 Albertans who take these medications and are covered by government-sponsored drug programs.