Many depression medications not covered by provincially-funded drug plans


With the number of people suffering from mental illness on the rise due to the pandemic, many Canadians aren't receiving the assistance they need.

Due to the anxiety and stress associated with the pandemic, there has been a surge in people reaching out for mental health services, including a spike in calls to crisis lines, mental health professionals, and core service providers.

Additionally, according to a report from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), a survey conducted in May found that 25.5 per cent of respondents felt moderate to severe anxiety levels, while 20.4 per cent felt depressed occasionally or most of the time in the past week.

Further, of those who responded to the survey, 24.5 per cent of females and 16.3 per cent of males have experienced increased levels of depression.

However, when it comes to accessing medications that can help with treating such conditions and symptoms, the government isn't doing enough according to advocacy groups. Particularly when it comes to alternative medications.

“The 40 percent of people with depression who don’t respond to the standard medications need access to a variety of medications,” Sidney Kennedy, professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, and the Arthur Sommer Rotenberg Chair in Suicide and Depression Studies, said in a news release.

the coalition of Canadians for Equitable Access to Depression Medications (CEADM) has highlighted an access gap many Canadians are facing when it comes to acquiring the drugs that might help treat their symptoms.

According to the release, 30 per cent of new medications are not covered in public drug plans, and it takes an obscenely long time for new drugs to be added to provincially funded drug plans--it took 16 years for one new depression medication to be recommended to be included this year.

Moreover, 70 per cent of generic and brand-name medications are not covered by most drug plans. As well, provinces won’t cover new innovations because they only cover cheaper medications through a maximum reimbursable price or lowest-cost alternative policy.

“The provinces and territories are not meeting the needs of all their citizens who are struggling with depression and depend on their provincial drug plan to access the medications they need to be mentally well,” Dave Gallson, co-chair of CEADM and national executive director of the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, said in the same release.

“Canadians deserve access to new medications as effective alternatives to treat their depression. The provinces have to include looking at medication as part of their mental health strategy. Furthermore, the brand-name medications that are covered under a province’s public drug plan are old medications that just don’t work for all Canadians," he continued.

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