Getting your prescription medication as a newcomer to Canada

by Arjun Singh

If you take medication for your health, you should make sure you take the proper steps to get access to these medications upon your arrival in Canada. Canada has two main classes of medications: over-the-counter drugs and prescription drugs.

Over-the-counter drugs can be purchased legally by any person without a prescription or written permission from a doctor. These drugs are readily available at pharmacies and other retail outlets.

On the other hand, prescription drugs are only for the person to whom they are prescribed. To access these drugs, you need a prescription from a doctor, which you can then bring into a pharmacy to get the medication. It is important to note that you are not permitted to use a foreign prescription to obtain prescription medication in Canada. You must instead get a prescription from a Canadian doctor.

To ensure that the medication you take is legal in Canada and if you will need a prescription to buy them, you can check the Canadian government’s Prescription Drug List. This is a good way to make sure the medication you take is allowed in the country.

When entering Canada, Health Canada allows you to bring medication required for a single-course treatment or a 90-day supply, whichever is less, of both over-the-counter medication and prescription medication. To avoid any problems upon arrival, it is recommended to bring these medications in retail or pharmacy dispensed packaging or to have a label attached to the container to clearly indicate what it contains.

Getting a prescription in Canada can be done through various methods. If you are in Canada on a temporary visit or stay, you can visit a walk-in clinic. These clinics allow any patient to walk in and see a doctor. However, wait times at walk-in clinics can be long, so be prepared for that. Make sure to bring your foreign prescription with you.

If you are planning to be in Canada long-term, it is advisable to get a family doctor. This may be a slower process, but having a family doctor allows for regular check-ups and monitoring of your health. Family doctors are regulated provincially, so you will need to contact your provincial health authority for information on how to find one.

For international students studying in Canada, most schools offer medical services on and off-campus. You can contact your school for assistance in getting a prescription.

It is essential to understand that while Canada has a free universal health care system called Medicare, prescription drugs may not always be covered. Basic medical services such as doctor visits, hospital stays, and diagnostic tests are covered, but each province may have different coverage for prescription drugs. Some provinces have provincial prescription drug plans that you may be able to register for. Moreover, many employers in Canada offer health plans that cover some costs related to prescription medication for their employees.

If you are a temporary resident in Canada, it is highly recommended that you get private health insurance. Consult with the insurance provider to determine what costs are covered by insurance and what are not. Additionally, some provinces require a certain amount of time living in the province before accessing the provincial health care plan, so purchasing insurance in the meantime may be advisable.

In 2023, the Canadian government plans to pass the Canada Pharmacare Act, establishing universal public pharma care in Canada. This Act would provide all residents of Canada with access to prescription drugs, funded by the government based on medical need rather than the ability to pay.

In conclusion, if you take medication for your health, ensure that you are aware of the Canadian regulations regarding over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Take the necessary steps to get a prescription from a Canadian doctor if required and consider your options for health care coverage, whether through Medicare, provincial prescription drug plans, employer health plans, or private health insurance. With these considerations in mind, you can ensure that you have access to the medications you need upon your arrival in Canada.

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