VICTORIA - Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid says British Columbians will start paying less for generic prescription drugs next year under a new drug-pricing policy estimated to save $110 million over two years.

She said Friday the new pricing regulations that take effect April 1 will cut the cost of generic drugs to 25 per cent of the cost of brand name prescription drugs.

The price of generic prescription drugs drops to 20 per cent of the cost of brand-name drugs on April 1, 2014, which will then give B.C. the lowest prices in Canada, MacDiarmid said.

British Columbians currently pay 35 per cent of the brand-name price for generic drugs.

"This regulation is going to make a difference and lower costs for our provincial drug plan, the public drug plan called Pharmacare," said MacDiarmid. "We're estimating about $110 million in savings for taxpayers over the next two years, starting April 1 next year."

MacDiarmid said the cost for a 30-day prescription for the generic version of the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor will drop to $11 in April 2014 from its current price of $19.

She said the current price for 30 days worth of brand-name Lipitor is $55.

Last May, the Liberal government passed the Pharmaceutical Services Act after announcing its previous generic drug pricing deal with the B.C. Pharmacy Association and the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores wasn't saving enough money for the government.

The health ministry had estimated savings of $329 million through lower generic prices, but was forced to drop that to $91 million mostly because of exemptions from the generic pricing agreement.

MacDiarmid said there still are some drug exemptions under the new pricing policy, but suggested there are not as many.

Opposition New Democrat health critic Mike Farnworth said the new generic drug prices are long overdue.

He said the government announced in 2010 it was following Ontario's lead in dropping generic prescription drug prices, but it took two years.

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