Line art icon of a pharmacist  Ask the Pharmacist

Your Express Scripts Canada pharmacist has a wealth of knowledge on a wide range of health topics. If you have a question about your health or medication, chances are, your Express Scripts Canada pharmacist knows the answer.

Click here to read the answer to our featured question

Q: How are seasonal depression and the impacts of COVID-19 affecting mental health, and what can people do to stay well?

Hello. I’m Dr. Dorian Lo, President of Express Scripts Canada. 

As we know, since the COVID-19 outbreak began nearly a year ago, the resulting pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges for people worldwide. Canadians are no exception. 

Beyond COVID-19’s direct health threat, Canada’s pandemic response including the vital Public Health Orders have dramatically disrupted our lives. 

The resulting worries about the virus, our health, jobs and communities have left increasing numbers of people feeling anxious and depressed. 

In fact, a recent study by CMHA and the University of British Columbia found that 40 per cent of those surveyed said their mental health has deteriorated since the COVID-19 outbreak began. For those with a pre-existing mental-health issue, that figure rose to 61 per cent. 

This data builds on the findings of a Léger Marketing study in late October that noted 24% of Canadians report their mental health and stress levels were worse than they were last spring, when the pandemic’s first wave swept across Canada. 

As we begin celebrating the Holiday Season, these COVID-19 mental health stresses are colliding with Seasonal Affective Disorder, a common affliction that the CAM-H describes as 
“a form of depression that appears at certain times of the year, usually beginning in the fall when the days get shorter.”

With Hanukah about to end and Christmas just around the corner, families are naturally anxious about how the pandemic will affect this normally festive time of year. 

More than ever, Canadians need to take their mental health seriously. 

Help is out there. If you or someone you care about is struggling with the impacts of COVID-19 or seasonal depression, it is crucial to seek advice from your doctor or another qualified health care professional like a pharmacist.

Clearly, employees who have access to a benefits plan have heard that message, and are increasingly reaching out for help. 

In fact, our own data at Express Scripts Canada shows that the use of medications typically used to treat mental health conditions has continued to increase the longer the pandemic continues. 

While this data shows a rising need, it also indicates a welcome decline in mental health stigma as people increasingly recognize their challenges and reach out for help.  

If appropriate, your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant or other medication to help you deal with feelings of anxiety or sadness. If so, it is crucially important to follow your doctor’s orders. 

As Express Scripts Canada’s latest Prescription Drug Trend Report clearly shows, medications don’t work if they aren’t taken correctly. Taking your medications as prescribed by your doctor is Express Scripts Canada’s priority and it is vital to your health. 

When it comes to antidepressants, it is crucial to note that these drugs typically take 4 to 6 weeks to deliver their full effect. 

As with any medication, while you should report any potential adverse side effects to your doctor right away, generally speaking, taking your medications as prescribed is crucial to an antidepressant’s ability to deliver its full, intended benefit. 

As our clinical experts often observe, however, people who are prescribed antidepressants can fall victim to various pitfalls. For example, some people may succumb to mental health stigma and question their doctor’s advice to take a prescription drug to help address anxiety or depression. 

Others assume that because these medications offer a helpful solution, they presume their issue is resolved as soon as they start to feel better, and, therefore, stop taking their medication. 

Again, stopping antidepressants too quickly, or even before they have started to deliver their full effect, is unadvisable. 

Most importantly: make sure to consult with and follow your doctor’s professional guidance. 

Also important, if you take multiple medications, be sure to consult your pharmacist. For example, an Express Scripts Canada pharmacist can confirm whether or not all the medications prescribed to you can be taken safely in combination. They can also potentially recommend equivalent, cost-effective drugs that can help you and your health benefits plan save money. 

Know this: despite these challenging times -- with the right help, we can all get through COVID-19, deal with seasonal depression, and find ways to make the most of the Holiday season. 

From all of us at Express Scripts Canada, I wish you and your family good health.


3 Easy Ways to Ask the Pharmacist

Don’t see your question below? Follow us on Twitter @ExpressRxCanada and tweet your question using #AskThePharmacist. You may just see the answer here!

Or send your question to:

Line art icon of a form

Online Form

Line art icon of an email


Line art icon of a pharmacist and a speech bubble