Health Canada says it is “extremely concerned” about a new law that would require pharmacies to provide prescriptions to all new patients, but it’s unclear what the impact will be on pharmacies.
Health Minister Jane Philpott told a House of Commons committee Wednesday that “health and social services are at risk.”
She added that “the legislation, and the fact that it is a regulation, makes it much harder for pharmacies to operate as well as they can and I think that’s why I am very concerned.”
The new legislation, introduced by Conservative MP Candice Bergen, would force pharmacies to offer all prescriptions within a prescribed timeframe and would require them to make sure all prescriptions are filled by licensed physicians, who must have health certificates and pass a background check.
If they are not, they would be forced to take their prescriptions off the shelves.
In a statement, the department said “we will review the impact on pharmacies” and that it would make a decision on whether to go forward with a consultation.
A spokesperson for the department confirmed that it had received reports of pharmacies refusing to fill prescriptions, but said “there is nothing currently in place to provide pharmacies with the flexibility they need to comply with the legislation.”
If pharmacies refuse to fill the prescriptions, they could face penalties of up to $1,500, a civil penalty of up, and up to two years in prison.
The law would also require pharmacies that refuse to provide medication to patients to provide it to another pharmacy that has an exemption.
This is the same exemption that has led to an increasing number of pharmacies being fined in Ontario.
Pharmacies are required to comply by January 1, 2018, with the new regulations.