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Shoppers, Loblaw employees will be covered for medical marijuana

CityNews | posted Friday, Mar 31st, 2017

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Marijuana, long demonized and shackled, took another step towards becoming recognized as a legitimate medicine on Thursday when Canada’s largest pharmacy chain announced its own employees would be covered for medical marijuana prescriptions.

Shoppers Drug Mart spokesperson Tammy Smitham told CityNews that “effective immediately prescriptions for medical marijuana will be covered up to an annual maximum of $1,500.”

Loblaw employees would also be covered. Loblaw owns Shoppers.

Smitham added that claims would be subject to prior authorization by insurers and would only be considered to “treat spasticity and neuropathic pain associated with multiple sclerosis and nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy for cancer patients.”

“Reimbursement will be provided for prescriptions fulfilled with Licensed Producers, which is the current approved method of distribution by the government,” she confirmed.

Manulife spokesperson Anne-Julie Gratton noted that marijuana doesn’t currently have a drug identification number from Health Canada, but said the insurer would “consider coverage if an employer has specifically requested it for one of its employees on an exceptional basis.”

“Also, employees who have a health care spending account (HCSA) can claim medical marijuana expenses under that account because medical marijuana is an allowable medical expense under Revenue Canada’s Income Tax Act. To date, coverage of medical marijuana under group insurance plans is extraordinarily rare.”

Currently, registered medical marijuana patients are only permitted to buy cannabis directly from licensed producers via the mail system.

In October 2016, Shoppers Drug Mart submitted an application to distribute medical marijuana.

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