The association representing Canada's generic pharmaceutical industry is slamming the Quebec government's plan to resort to tendering in order to get cheaper generic prescription drugs.

Health Minister Gaetan Barrette said Wednesday the government will proceed with tendering as of July 1.

He said talks with the industry fell apart after its representatives walked away without giving a reason.

Without accusing pharmaceutical companies of collusion, Barrette did say prices are often "very similar from one company to another, which is very surprising."

Jim Keon, president of the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association, said the organization gave Quebec a proposal earlier this month that would enable the province to save $1.5 billion over five years.

"The proposal includes further price discounts on top-selling generic prescription drugs and additional savings through the launch of new cost-saving generic medicines," Keon said in a statement.

He said the government has instead decided to proceed with a "risky tendering scheme" that could threaten jobs as well as the supply of cost-saving generic pharmaceutical products.

The association argues that limiting the number of suppliers for a given product increases the risk of drug shortages and could lead to higher prices in the long term as manufacturers are forced out of the market.

It says Quebec's generic pharmaceutical industry supports 4,100 direct jobs and creates a direct economic impact of $769 million.

The order that represents Quebec's pharmacists acknowledges drug costs are too high but says changing one drug for another could bother some patients.

"Take epileptics for example," Ordre des pharmaciens du Quebec president Bertrand Bolduc told The Canadian Press. "Do we want to change something that works? I'm not sure.

"Do we want to change things for mental-health patients who are sometimes confused just by a change of colour in their pills? I'm not sure.

"Let's go about it intelligently and gradually."