OTTAWA—A psychiatrist who has worked in First Nations communities says Health Canada makes some on-reserve patients jump through hoops—or wait longer—than non-indigenous Canadians to access prescription drugs their doctors believe they need to treat mental illnesses.
Dr. Cornelia Wieman says she’d have to try out of date medications and have a patient fail on them before funding is approved for new ones.
The issue is linked to the non-insured health benefits program at Health Canada which provides about $1 billion in annual coverage to eligible First Nations and Inuit people for a limited range of prescription drugs that aren’t covered under provincial, territorial or private plans.
The drugs benefit list includes four antipsychotic drugs that can be used only under limited conditions and require pre-approval from Health Canada though all are covered under general benefits in the Ontario drug plan.
Wieman was testifying on the issue at the parliamentary committee studying the high suicide rate in indigenous communities.
Yvonne Jones, the parliamentary secretary to Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, told The Canadian Press earlier this year that the Liberal government is aware of the issues with the non-insured health benefits program and is considering reform.