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'Not looking to make money': Alberta government swallows cost on imported children's pain reliever

The Smith government will be selling bottles of children's pain reliever, acquired from overseas sources, at a loss to residents, Alberta's health minister said this week.

Jason Copping admitted to the expenditure during a committee meeting, saying the province spent $80 million on five million bottles of children's medication ordered from Turkiye last year.

"$70 million is the cost of medication while $10 million is the cost of shipping, waste disposal and other administrative costs," Copping told the standing committee on families and communities on Wednesday.

"A shipment has already arrived and it's being distributed," he said. "We expect two other additional shipments to be coming in over the next little while."

The supply, acquired from Turkish pharmaceutical manufacturer Atabay last December, was approved for sale by Health Canada earlier this year.

Copping says the unit cost per bottle is approximately $14, but the government is seeking to recover some of that money spent.

"We made a commitment to Albertans that once it hits the shelves we will be subsidizing it," he said. "(Albertans) will be paying the standard cost, give or take about $7 or $8 per bottle.

"We're not looking to make money at this."

The medication will be coming in at different times through the year, so Albertans will have access to what they need, when they need it, he said.

"I even went to the shelves a couple of weeks ago and we're still short," Copping said.

"We want to make sure we're not in the same position the year after for the next flu season."

Copping says other provinces have also expressed interest in having access to this supply of medication, but one million bottles will be kept here in reserve.

He says there should be no concern that the medication Alberta has purchased will go to waste.

"The conversations that I've been having with other jurisdictions, where there are still shortages is, it's better to have and not need than need and not have.

"We were put into that position last fall and we want to make sure we don't get into it again."

Rakhi Pancholi, the Alberta NDP's children's services critic, was the one who pressed Copping to share details about the total cost of the contract with Atabay.

She told reporters Thursday that the high price tag "surprised" her.

"It was very clear there that for several months there, we were in a real crisis," she said. "Any parent, including myself, can tell you it was very difficult to find kids' Advil or Tylenol and that was very stressful."

Her concern now is that Albertans are being forced to pay "top dollar" for medications that we're there when they were really needed.

"We're essentially paying a $7 premium on top of the cost value. That's $14 per bottle. Right now, any parent can go out and find children's Tylenol for a lot less than that.

"I don't know how we're going to recover the costs and it doesn't even sound like the minister has a plan."

Pancholi says there are also questions about delivery dates and any sort of contract stipulations that could allow Alberta to cut off delivery if the drugs are truly not needed.

"It feels like this was rushed into, like the goverment was looking to appear to do something rather than actually doing something."


While shortages have improved, pharmacies around Calgary are still not able to get everything they'd like.

"When we order, we'll go through maybe eight, nine, ten pages and maybe be able to pick up two or three items," said David Brewerton, pharmacist at Luke Drug Mart in Bridgeland.

"Back up another month or two, and that was a whole different situation. Now its improved, but its still really short."

Brewerton says he hasn't heard any details about when the provincial supply will be available. Top Stories

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