Jean Coutu family blasts government’s involvement in drug policies

Quebec pharmacy mogul Jean Coutu and his son are denouncing the policies implemented by the Couillard government on their industry, and say they are “re-evaluating a lot of things" including their investments in Quebec.

In an interview with TVA news, company founder Jean Coutu and his son François Jean Coutu, who is president and CEO of the firm, said their investors are concerned by the uncertainty created by Quebec government’s involvement in their sector. Stopping short of saying the family was thinking of selling their company, François Jean Coutu said “the family is asking itself questions.” Jean Coutu also suggested the firm had received offers for a buyout, all of which have been refused thus far.

Over the past few months, the Association québécoise des pharmaciens propriétaires (AQPP) has fought against Quebec’s decision to cut their members’ fees by $133 million annually and gradually reduce their professional allowances, which includes rebates given to pharmacists by drug companies for the purchase of their products.

The AQPP contends that the resulting revenue shortfall had led to the loss of 1,000 jobs — including 300 pharmacists — as well as pharmacies across Quebec cutting 3,500 hours from their hours of operation.

Jean Coutu, who operates Pro Doc, a generic medicine manufacturer, has already acknowledged that the changes have effected the firm.

In an interview with the Presse Canadienne last October, François Jean Coutu complained of the Couillard government’s “lack of vision” with Bill 81, which allows for calls for tender for the purchase of generic drugs to obtain the best price. Coutu argued that by doing so, the government would be responsible for a reduction in the number of suppliers, which could lead to a drop in the availability of drugs.

In the TVA interview, François Jean Coutu also denounced Quebec health minister Gaétan Barrette’s unwillingness to listen to the industry’s suggestions on how to reduce drug prices, deciding instead “to do things his way.”