Canadian insurance company Manulife Financial has announced it will be collaborating with pharmacy chain Shoppers Drug Mart to establish the country’s first medical marijuana program. Once the program takes effect in the fall of 2018, certain health insurance plans managed by Manulife – including both group benefits and individual plans – will be eligible to take advantage of the services.
“Medical marijuana can be complex. Most medically-authorized patients need help finding the right solution for their condition,” said Donna Carbell, Senior Vice President, Group Benefits. “Manulife’s medical marijuana program will ensure people have appropriate advice, make informed decisions and receive the support they need to choose the appropriate strain for their condition.”
While Manulife hasn’t disclosed all the details of the deal, they did say that Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacists will help patients who have a prescription for medical marijuana choose the treatment option that’s right for them. Working out of an Ontario-based patient care centre, the pharmacists will inform patients about the different ways to take cannabis products and which of those forms is covered under their Manulife health benefits plan.
And the support won’t end once patients fill their prescription; the patient care pharmacists will continue to follow up regularly by both phone and email to make sure they have all the tools they need to understand how to take their medication correctly.
“Shoppers Drug Mart’s trusted healthcare professionals can provide patients with greater attention and support to navigate the complexities of medical cannabis therapies,” said Mark Rolnick, Vice President, Employer Health Solutions, Shoppers Drug Mart. “We are excited about this new partnership and its ability to help Manulife customers live their lives well.”
The partnership with Manulife is a natural fit for Shoppers Drug Mart, which has signed multiple distribution deals with cannabis producers such as Aurora, Aphria, Tilray and MedReleaf (now part of Aurora). However, it’s likely the pharmacy chain will be selling medical marijuana through its website as current regulations don’t allow the products to be sold in retail stores. However, Shoppers will have to wait to get Health Canada approval before filling cannabis prescriptions.
As of last September, there were over 235,000 Canadian patients who had prescriptions for medical marijuana – a number which has likely increased significantly in recent months. And with Canada expected to legalize the recreational consumption of cannabis as of October 17, 2018, multiple companies outside the healthcare industry are looking to cash in on this major new market.