As with any country, Canada takes prescription drugs very seriously. This is why they have laws and regulations set in place to make sure that patients get their needed medication in the safest way possible. If you’re new in Canada and need prescription medication – here’s what you should know:
Two Main Classes of Medication in Canada
Canada’s medication laws have two primary categories for drugs: Over-the-Counter (OTC) and Prescription.
OTC medications can be sold without a doctor’s prescription. However, they require a valid Drug Identification Number (DIN) to get sold in Canada. This number indicates that the specific medicine meets the safety, quality, and effectiveness requirements according to the set standards. These medications are commonly used for conditions such as pain, aches, or itching.
Note that even though they can be bought without a written prescription, they can still have a negative interaction with other drugs. So if you are on prescription medicines, consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking any new products.
These drugs should only be used by the individual to whom they are prescribed to prevent medication errors or unintended side effects. You can access these drugs only with a written prescription from your doctor.
Are Your Prescription Drugs Legal in Canada?
Classification of OTC and prescription medications change from one country to another. This is why if you’re travelling to Canada, you should first check out their prescription drug list. If your medication is on the list, then you will need a prescription in order to acquire it in Canada.
Can I Bring My Prescription Medication into Canada with Me?
The fact is that some drugs which are approved for use in other countries may not be authorized in Canada. Therefore, it is wise to make sure to check beforehand and if there is a conflict, ask your doctor if there are alternatives you can swap with.
In the case your medicine is allowed in Canada despite needing a prescription - how should you bring it in the country? In order to prevent any issues, your prescription medication should be in a pharmacy-dispensed packaging with a prominent label. The packaging should indicate the medicine itself and who would be using it. If you can bring the original prescription with you – then that would be ideal.
The amount of prescription medication you bring in should also be limited. Regulations require you to limit drugs to a single-course treatment or enough supply for 90-days, whichever is lesser.
What if I Need to Fill My Prescription in Canada?
Let’s say you’ve run out of medication while in Canada and need to refill your prescription drugs – what do you do next? There are two ways you can approach this:
Using Your Doctor’s Prescription
Let’s say you’ve brought prescriptions from your doctor and want them filled in the country. Are there Canadian pharmacies that fill prescriptions from other countries? Unfortunately, Canadian pharmacies are not permitted to dispense medications written by international prescribers.
Due to provincial and federal regulations, Canadian pharmacies may only fill prescriptions from Canada-based doctors.
You will need to either visit a Canada-based doctor and have them write the prescription for you or you can use a process called “co-signing.” This is where your non-Canadian doctor sends your prescription to a Canadian based doctor who will then review the prescription and if deemed appropriate, the physician will “co-sign” for approval.
Going to a Canadian Doctor
If you’ve run out of your prescription medication, you can always consult with a Canadian doctor who can give you a new prescription. Note that this Canadian doctor will go through the consultation process with you before they issue a prescription.
This means they will be treating you as if you’re a brand new patient. Be prepared to answer questions about your medical history, the medications you take, and the name of your primary care physician.
Understand that the Canadian doctor may not give you the exact medicine you were previously prescribed, depending on local regulations. For example, if the prescription medication you want is not available in Canada, they may suggest a replacement product that you can use instead.
There are three ways to get your prescription from doctors in Canada:
A walk-in clinic is perhaps one of the fastest routes, and perfect if you don’t really know anyone in the area. A quick Google search should point you to the right decision in a matter of minutes.
A walk-in clinic is perfect if you have your own prescriptions on-hand. Also, in some provinces, they are covered under provincial insurance plans. This will make things faster as the doctor simply verifies the availability of these medications in Canada, verifies the patient, and perhaps make a quick call to your doctor if possible. Once they’re satisfied with the information, walk-in clinics will quickly issue you a prescription you can use in any pharmacy in the area.
If you’re settling in for long periods in Canada, a family doctor would be the better option. They keep an ongoing record of your health history and accordingly prescribe you the medication you need.
Before committing to a new physician, you might want to ask around if there are doctors accepting new patients. If you have friends in the area, you can also try asking them about their family doctor. According to the Canada Health Act, essential physician and hospital care are covered by the publicly funded system. However, it varies from province to province.
Telemedicine or Online Doctors
Telemedicine or Virtual Care is a rising trend that allows patients, such as yourself, to consult Canadian doctors online. There are a number of services available which allow patients to connect with health care workers on their phone or computer anytime. These online doctors are also able to write or “co-sign” prescriptions for their patients virtually.
Regardless of which doctor you go to, explain your medical condition thoroughly. This will help guarantee that you’re getting the best possible prescription that fits your medical needs.
Getting Prescriptions with Health Insurance
Prescription drugs in Canada may or may not be covered by your health insurance. If you have an existing health insurance plan, make sure that it extends to any prescriptions issued outside of your home country. You can give your provider a call and find out the extent of their services.
If you’re currently employed in Canada, there’s a chance that you’re covered by your employer’s health insurance. Your employer could also offer a health plan that covers prescription medications.
Also, note that there are provincial-level health insurance plans offered in Canada. You can register for a health plan in your particular province which may help cover a portion of your medication needs.
Finally, you can also obtain private health insurance in Canada. This will give you the benefit of choice and should cover most of your medical needs.
How to Get a Prescription without Insurance
Lack of insurance will not stop you from getting prescriptions from Canada filled. It simply means you’ll have to pay out of pocket until you are able to obtain health insurance to assist with this expense.
Yes, it takes some work in order to get your prescription filled in Canada if you’re new to the country. However – understand that this is for your own protection. Once you pass that hurdle for the first time, every succeeding prescription should be easier to get.
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