OTTAWA – Health Canada says the choice to restrict access to some prescription mental-illness drugs for on-reserve patients is based on the same expert advice that guides the country’s publicly funded pharmacare programs.
Dr. Cornelia Wieman, a psychiatrist who has worked on First Nations reserves, says Health Canada will not cover some prescriptions for antipsychotics unless the patient has tried other drugs first.
Wieman made the comments last week to a parliamentary committee studying the high suicide rate in Canada’s First Nations communities.
Health Canada says it relies on experts at the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technology in Health, which considers factors such as clinical effectiveness, cost and patient impact before recommending whether it should be publicly funded.
Health Canada says fewer than one per cent of drug claims submitted for First Nations and Inuit patients using its non-insured health benefits program require pre-approval, and that most provinces have similar conditions for antipsychotic medications.
Wieman says Health Canada should focus on the needs of the population it is serving, rather than comparing its decisions to other plans.