07/17/2015 12:15 EDT | Updated 07/17/2016 05:59 EDT

Premiers meeting: feds asked to bring all drug plans to pharmaceutical alliance

Canada's premiers are opening the door for the federal government to join a provincial and territorial alliance that buys prescription drugs in bulk.

But Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski said Friday the provinces and territories would like to see Ottawa bring all of its drug plans into the alliance, not just some.

"Canada would like to join our Pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance and we're excited about that," he said Friday during a meeting of the premiers in St. John's, N.L.

"We're excited that they want to bring some of their plans in. We think that they should bring all of their plans in because that continues to increase the buying power that the group has, and that allows us to continue to leverage these companies and come up with a better price for Canadians."

Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose has been ramping up the pressure recently to try and join the network.

The federal government is one of the biggest buyers of prescription drugs in Canada, as it helps supply medications to the prison population, First Nations, soldiers and veterans.

In a letter obtained by The Canadian Press sent just before premiers gathered in St. John's, Ambrose urged her provincial and territorial counterparts to tap into federal "buying leverage and expertise."

The premiers say their alliance has seen the price of 14 generic drugs reduced to 18 per cent of the name-brand price for those products, saving $190 million in this fiscal year.

It has negotiated prices on 63 name-brand drugs and continues negotiations on another 16, saving an additional $300 million a year for public drug plans, Pasloski said.

He said the provinces and territories expect Quebec to increase their buying power when it joins.