Nunavut, Saskatchewan and Manitoba Have Yet to Provide Coverage for “Game-Changing” Abortion Pill Mifegymiso
Last week PIC learned that many pharmacies across Saskatchewan are not stocking the abortion drug Mifegymiso. One expert says its spotty availability is tied to the provincial government’s lack of coverage.
Mifegymiso was approved for use in Canada in July, 2015. The good news is that the cost of this early abortion pill is now covered in eight provinces and two territories. The bad news is that it is not covered in two provinces and one territory.
Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nunavut do not provide universal coverage for Mifegymiso. This means that out-of-pocket expenses can be as high as $300 to $450 for those who have no coverage from insurance or benefits. As was reported in Canadian media last week, the lack of coverage is likely the main factor behind the low demand for the drug in many Saskatchewan pharmacies and the low rate of Saskatchewan physicians prescribing it. And new data show that Mifegymiso is rarely being prescribed in rural Manitoba.
A family planning researcher and professor at University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Medicine, quoted in the article about Saskatchewan pharmacies, said that when governments do not provide the medication for free, low-income women who can’t afford it are essentially forced into having surgical abortions. While these are covered by every province, they can raise privacy concerns and often put a great financial strain on women for childcare and travel costs.
Although Health Canada approved Mifegymiso for use in 2015, it did not start becoming available until January, 2017. PIC is encouraged that some of the initial barriers to access have been lifted, including most recently the requirement for an ultrasound before the drug can be prescribed.
It’s unfortunate that Mifegymiso is still not universally accessible and affordable in Canada. If the drug is to become a “game-changing” medical option for every women who seeks an early abortion, all provincial and territorial governments will have to step up to make that happen.