On the very first day their new prescribing powers took effect, B.C. pharmacists did 891 patient assessments they couldn’t have done before, according to the province’s PharmaCare program.
Changes allowing them to diagnose and prescribe medications for 21 minor ailments — including shingles, acne and urinary tract infections — as well as prescribe contraception, have been “many, many years in the making,” pharmacist Pindy Janda said Thursday.
The most in-demand services on June 1 were for allergies, urinary tract infections, contraception, pink eye and dermatitis, or skin irritations, none of which came as a surprise, she added.
“What do they all have in common? You want an answer quickly,” the vice-president of the BC Pharmacy Association told Global News.
“If someone is suffering from a urinary tract infection, you don’t want to wait two weeks to find out if you have one.”
As of last spring, the number of British Columbians without a family doctor was closing in on one million. Stories about long waitlists and understaffing at hospitals and clinics have dominated headlines since the COVID-19 pandemic.
The advantage of bringing pharmacists into the fold is better access, said Janda, noting that many pharmacies are open 24 hours a day or late into the evening, long past the business hours of many clinics.
As of last week, more than three quarters of eligible community pharmacists had completed the training required to assess and prescribe for minor ailments in more than 400 pharmacies.
“When you’ve been given this heightened education by your university and the licensing body has put you through, and you’re licensed, you want to use it,” she said, adding that her friends behind the counter are “super excited” to be prescribing some of their first medications.
Within a week of the changes taking effect, Barbara Gobis, director of the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, said UBC’s Pharmacists Clinic had already dispensed its first prescription.
“It’s much more convenient than waiting to try and get into your family doctor or go to the ER or a local clinic,” Gobis said.
“We’re really trying to get treatment started in people who need it faster and more conveniently. I can’t tell you how many times I had to send somebody off somewhere else when I knew what they needed and I couldn’t give it to them because of my scope.”
Both Janda and Gobis predict that patient access to pharmacist-prescribed medicine will only continue to increase as more people become aware of the expanded scope of practice.
The B.C. government has estimated more than 750,000 residents will use the services in the first year. A list of nearby pharmacies and their services is available at seeyourpharmacist.ca.
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