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British Columbia Health Minister Terry Lake is pictured in Vancouver, B.C., in 2013.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

The federal government has joined Canadian provinces and territories in a bulk-buying drug program that aims to lower the cost of prescription medications.

Health Minister Jane Philpott says drug plans administered by the federal government will unite with the provincial and territorial pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance, which negotiates to lower prices on brand name and generic drugs.

The announcement comes as the country's health ministers gather in Vancouver this week to discuss issues such as chronic diseases, drug costs and funding formulas.

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Philpott says in a statement that combining the negotiating power of federal, provincial and territorial governments achieves greater savings for all publicly funded drug programs, increases access to drug-treatment options and improves consistency of pricing across Canada.

Federal health plans provide drug benefits to First Nations and Inuit, the RCMP, the Canadian Forces, veterans, federal inmates and refugee protection claimants, totalling $630 million in drug-related spending in 2014.

The pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance has completed more than 89 negotiations on brand name drugs and price reductions on 14 generic drugs, producing a savings of more than $490 million annually.

British Columbia's Health Minister Terry Lake says federal government participation greatly enhances the strength and purchasing power of the alliance.

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