Federal Program Reimbursing for Drugs is Flawed

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Quebec pharmacists owed thousands of dollars for drugs


Image source from Amanda M Hatfield on flickr

Pharmacists in Quebec are demanding that the government pays them first before they supply prescription drugs to thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers in the province.  Through the Interim Federal Health Program, Immigration Canada will reimburse pharmacists for the cost of prescription drugs.  However, according to Vincent Forcier, the director of public affairs for the association representing Quebec pharmacists, it can take as long as three years for Ottawa to pay.

Furthermore, there is no agreement as to which drugs are covered by the program, nor what the prices are.  As a result, sometimes only partial payments are made, or no payment at all.

Other provinces less put out by delayed reimbursement for drugs

Of the 27,000 refugees and asylum seekers that enter Canada each year, a third of those come to Quebec.  Other provinces have large pharmacy companies so slow payments are not as significant as in Quebec, where the province requires individual pharmacists to own their pharmacies.  As a result, the pharmacists are small business owners that have less success carrying debt.

Patients suffering without drugs

Public health officials worry that patients with infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and HIV, will not be able to afford to continue treatment.

Norbert Gilmore, a professor emeritus of medicine at McGill university, has appealed to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney for help.

“This is a disaster for the personal health of Canadian refugees and asylum-seekers and for public health in Canada,” he said. “This is an impoverished population and few, if any, of these individuals can afford to pay for medication.”

He said that many patients have already stopped their treatment, and that their health with quickly get worse as a result.

Pharmacists who are refusing to supply the medications are recommending that patients get the drugs from an emergency room, instead.

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