17 Questions about Pharmacies in Canada: What Customers Need to Know

pharmacies in canada

1. Why prescriptions are cheaper in Canada?

This is true that overall prices on prescription drugs are lower in Canada when compared to the USA. This discrepancy is due to strict controls on the prices that can be charged by the Patented Medicine Price Review Board. While another major factor is that the provincial heath care service providers usually negotiate with the drug-distributing companies for bulk/wholesale purchases. If such companies negotiate for a commonly used/ popular drug, that results in the price that such drug would be sold at in the pharmacies as well. The actual costs can significantly vary by drug, so there is no way to establish a pattern in pricing on a general level.

2. How to recognize a scammy online Canadian pharmacy?

  • A consumer is advised to pay close attention and try to avoid Canadian online pharmacies that show one or several of the following signs:
  • A pharmacy claims that they ship medications from a foreign country.
  • A pharmacy does not show a license issued by the state health authority.
  • A pharmacy claims that they ship medications to any country in the world.
  • A pharmacy offers for sale prescription-free medications.
  • A pharmacy is spamming you with cheap medicine offers.
  • A pharmacy is promising huge discounts and unreasonably good deals.

3. Can I get insulin from Canada?

A foreigner would need a legal prescription in order to purchase insulin from any Canadian pharmacy. Even though a prescription is not mandatory to purchase insulin in Canada, the US citizens ordering from the United States must provide a legally obtained prescription for verified pharmacies.

4. Are prescriptions prices can vary at different pharmacies in US as opposed to Canada?

That is true. Prescription drug prices are not regulated per se, and prices will vary for the same drug at different pharmacies in the United States. As a matter of fact, the cost of a prescription on a particular medication may differ by more than USD 100 between pharmacies situated just across the street from each other! At the same time, in Canada there is no significant discrepancy in prices for the prescription on a particular drug among pharmacies situated even in different provinces.

5. Are prescription drugs fully covered in Canada?

It depends. Under the Canada Health Act, prescription drugs administered to a patient in Canadian hospitals are provided at no cost to the patient. A lot of Canadians and their family members ensure drug coverage linked to employment, while some Canadians may have no current drug coverage in their prescriptions and, as a result, will have to pay the full cost of prescription drugs.

6. Can I get prescription filled in Canada?

As a matter of fact, yes. Doctors in the United States can and do practice sending their prescriptions to Canadian pharmacies. The United States-issued prescriptions received by a Canadian pharmacy must be approved by a local Canadian doctor, who, in his turn, issues a Canadian prescription, prior to it being properly filled. This established practice is often called in Canada as co-signing.

7. Can I get a prescription without seeing a doctor?

The Canadian pharmacy requires your doctor’s signature on a prescription. That’s a rule without any exceptions. However, some online pharmacies may tell you that their in-house, licensed medical professional, or “doctor” can write you a prescription without seeing you in person. It is up to you to decide if such prescription will do any good.

8. Is it illegal to get the same prescription from different doctors?

By definition, visiting more than one doctor to obtain a prescription for the same medication is considered as doctor shopping. However, if the patient deceitfully gets a prescription as a result of such visit, it is referred to as doctor shopping, and is universally illegal. The practice shows, that once a patient starts doing doctor shopping, he will keep doing this.

9. How long do you have to live in Canada to get free healthcare?

If a patient is living in Canada, he must have been a permanent resident and physically present in Canada for minimum 1460 days (that is four 365-day periods). That is, in the 6 years before the date of your filed application to the officials. If these requirements are met, a patient can get free healthcare.

10. Are prescription drugs free for seniors in Canada?

In most provinces of Canada prescription drugs are free for seniors over the age of 65.

11. Do you need a prescription to buy antibiotics in Canada?

As a rule antibiotics are not over the counter medications in Canada. However, there is a number of private clinics that can supply antibiotics with a prescription issued there at the clinic, depending on a case. A pharmacy would recognize such prescription and a patient will be able to purchase an antibiotic.

12. Can U.S. doctors and pharmacies send or transfer prescriptions to Canada?

Yes, doctors in the U.S. can send prescriptions to Canadian pharmacies.

Canadian provinces require that pharmacies dispense medications pursuant to a valid prescription signed by a Canadian physician. Therefore, United States-issued prescriptions received by a Canadian store must be approved at all times by a Canadian doctor, who, in his turn, issues an identical Canadian prescription. Only then a patient can fill such prescription. This practice is often referred to as cosigning. Co-signing process is often though of as an extra review of the patient’s health profile by a licensed local doctor to determine the suitability of the recommended medication.

To make it clear, a patient or a physician in the U.S. only has to send a prescription to Canada. You do not need to take care about finding a Canadian physician. The pharmacy will take care of the overall approval process from that point on.

13. Can a doctor send a prescription to a pharmacy?

While your pharmacist doesn’t need to read your doctor’s advise and recommendations on an e-prescription, there can be errors and misunderstandings, especially when the information is digitized. About one in ten prescriptions will require a call from your local pharmacy to your physician for clarification.

14. Can US citizens order prescription medications from Canadian online pharmacies?

Tens of thousands of Americans have ordered medication from Canada, even though it’s technically made very difficult and even considered illegal in some cases. However, it is perfectly legitimate for all parties to deal with citizens of any country, United States included, when buying or selling either prescription-free medication, or prescription-based medication, when the prescription is supplied.

15. How long are prescriptions good in Canada for?

The prescription, once it is issued, has legal authority for the duration of one year (365 days). That means a pharmacist must accept and fill such prescription for up to one year starting from the date it was issued.

16. Can I legally fill a prescription written by a prescriber licensed in another province of Canada?

Usually, yes. In accordance with section 26. of the Pharmacy Act, prescriptions written by licensed pharmacists in Canada in one province are eligible to be filled in another province.

There are few factors, however, to take into consideration. First, it depends on the type of a physician who issued a prescription and whether or not that physician would have prescribing authority if they were licensed in provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador. Currently, in Newfoundland and Labrador, physicians, dentists, veterinarians, nurse practitioners and optometrists all have varying authorities to prescribe medications. An out-of-province issuer would have to belong to one of these groups for their prescription to be valid in this province. For example, a prescription from a dentist would be valid; a prescription from a chiropractor would not be valid. A patient is advised to check each time the status of a particular medical specialist in the above mentioned cases.

17. What are the Canadian prescriptions transfer regulations?

As a rule, Canadian pharmacies are generally not allowed to accept prescription transfers issued from U.S. pharmacies. Canadian provinces enforce that pharmacies dispense medications pursuant to a valid prescription authorized by a Canadian physician. Therefore, U.S. prescriptions received by a Canadian pharmacy must be supported and approved by the following:

  • a health history survey,
  • an original signed prescription, which can be faxed by your doctor or mailed,
  • a licensed pharmacy can work directly with your physician to approve the receipt of the prescription and make sure the refills will be supplied when necessary.


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