MONTREAL -- After eliminating provincially funded in vitro fertilization procedures, Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette is suggesting funding of the drugs used in the treatments may be reduced.

Barrette says it's possible the drugs won't be reimbursed directly any longer under the provincial drug plan, with the cost of the medication possibly being folded into a tax credit.

That's what the Quebec government did when it passed Bill 20 last fall, putting an end to publicly funded IVF treatments.

Some are able to take advantage of a tax credit at the end of the year depending on their income and circumstances.

Barrette acknowledged, however, that the tax-credit option will still be more expensive for couples.

"But it's still less costly than if we were to abolish it altogether," he said Monday.

Barrette says he'll follow the recommendation of a provincial health institute, which may decide to put an end to the free drugs.

Assisted procreation had been free in Quebec since August 2010, but the cost of the publicly funded program was higher than expected.

The vice-president of an association that represents infertile couples in Quebec expressed disappointment with Barrette's comments.

"It's as though they were completely abandoning an illness," said Martine Vallee Cossette.

She pointed out that the maximum tax credit is $10,000 but that the drugs for one cycle can go for between $4,000 and $10,000, while the actual in vitro procedures can range from $6,000 to $10,000.