Your guide to pharmacies and medications

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After a check-up or medical consultation, your doctor may tell you to take medicine to ease your pain, heal whatever is ailing you, or to improve your health. He or she will give you a prescription which you will need to take to a pharmacy to get filled. Going to a drugstore is easy, but there may be a few practices that are different in pharmacies in Manitoba compared to those in your home country. If you are unsure about how to proceed, here is a guide to know what to do and expect:

Going to a pharmacy

There are many stand-alone drugstores and pharmacies in Manitoba. You may have passed by some small pharmacies or noticed branches of Shoppers Drug Mart, Rexall, or London Drugs. These are some of the biggest drugstores in the province. You may also find pharmacies inside supermarkets like Walmart, Costco, Safeway and Superstore.

The first step is to show the prescription slip to the pharmacist. He or she will read it and check the medicine’s availability. They will also find out the total cost. Most of the time, you won’t get your medicines right away. You may have to wait or come back later. The pharmacist will inform you when you should return.

It is important to note that only Canada-licensed physicians’ prescriptions are filled by pharmacies. Also, a Manitoba pharmacy may only sell Health Canada approved drugs (College of Pharmacists of Manitoba).

Prescription and over-the-counter drugs

You may have heard the term “over-the-counter medications.” These are medicines that are useful for minor ailments like headaches, colds, flu, fever, or allergy. You can buy them without a prescription. The strength of these medicines is lower compared to prescription medicine.

However, many health professionals warn against self-medication and improper use of over-the-counter medicine. Some people may combine them with other medicines, go beyond the recommended dosage, or take them for a long time. This can cause adverse side effects, worsen a disease, or impair your kidneys. It is always best to consult your doctor before taking any medication.

Reading a prescription label

When you receive your prescription medicine, you will notice that it has a personalized label. It is important to read this label because it contains the direction for use (how much, how many times in a day, and when you should take the medicine), the name of the medicine, the expiration date, the RX number, and the name of the pharmacist. It also includes the name of the pharmacy, the address, your doctor’s name and your name. If in case you have questions about the medication (for instance, if it causes a bad reaction), you can consult your pharmacist if your doctor is not readily available. You will need to refer to the label information when you inquire.

Aside from dispensing medicine, your pharmacist can also provide helpful information. He or she can warn you about the possible side-effects from taking your prescribed medicine, suggest the best time to take your medicine, and even work with your doctor to come up with the best medication for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek assistance from your pharmacist. He or she will be glad to help you.

Pharma care and other supports

Medication can be costly, especially if you need to take them for a long time. You can apply for the Pharmacare program if you need help. Pharmacare pays part of your prescription costs, regardless of your disease or age. The coverage is based on your total family income and the amount you pay for eligible prescription drugs. You can apply for Pharmacare if you are eligible for the Manitoba health card and if your prescriptions are not covered by other provincial or federal programs, or a private drug insurance program.

Meanwhile, the Manitoba Home Cancer Drug program offers certain drugs at no cost. Patients managed by CancerCare Manitoba (CCMB), Community Cancer Program Network, or community oncologists affiliated with CCMB are eligible. You can learn more about this program here: Manitoba Home Cancer Drug Program.

There are supplementary health insurance plans that cover a big part of prescription costs. If you are employed, check your company’s group plan coverage. Otherwise, while you are healthy, look into personal health insurance plans that have this benefit if you feel that you will have a good use for it in the future.

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Community Resources

Here is a Price comparison of commonly prescribed medications in Manitoba (2018). This is a good reference if you are looking for prescription options that you can discuss with your doctor.

Know more about your Manitoba Health Care coverage at Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living.

Read Do I need supplementary health insurance? to know more about individual health plans.

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