In October 2022, the Ministry of Health introduced changes that enabled pharmacists to renew prescriptions for a wider range of drugs and health conditions. However, there are limitations. If your pharmacist doesn’t feel comfortable renewing your medication – perhaps because lab work or a physician’s assessment is needed – you would typically be asked to see your doctor or go to a walk-in clinic. Here in the Comox Valley, this is a real challenge, as many people don’t have a family doctor, and one of our two walk-in clinics will be closing as of April 28. So what can we do?
INTRODUCING THE PPRSS
If you don’t have a family doctor, you might be able to get prescriptions renewed through the Provincial Prescription Renewal Support Service (PPRSS), which was implemented in January 2023. You are eligible for the service if:
- Your prescription is still valid (less than 2 years old), but the prescriber’s licence is no longer active – for example, written by a medical resident who is no longer working in B.C.
- The prescription has expired (written more than 2 years ago).
- Your pharmacist feels that a physician’s opinion or lab tests are needed before your prescription can be renewed.
It’s important to know that you will not be eligible for this service if you have a primary care provider (family doctor or nurse practitioner) who takes care of your medical needs. Also, this service cannot be used for renewal of narcotics and controlled drugs, cancer medication, or cannabis.
HOW DOES THE PPRSS WORK?
If you’re eligible for the prescription renewal service, your pharmacist will complete an online form that refers you to the program. Your pharmacist will also provide you up to a 14-day emergency supply of your medications to make sure you can continue to take your prescribed medications until they are renewed. Then, within five days:
- A PPRSS pharmacist will contact you by phone to do a detailed medication review.
- A PPRSS physician will contact you and conduct a virtual medical assessment and modify/provide a prescription, request lab work, or refer you to a primary care provider for an in-person assessment. If they request lab work, the results will be sent back to the PPRSS physician for further follow-up with you.
Clearly, this service fits a very specific niche. It does not meet the needs of individuals without a family doctor who may require, for example, narcotic medications for chronic pain or controlled medications for anxiety. As the Provincial Prescription Renewal Support Service is still very new and will experience some growing pains, changes may be made to the program in the future.
The PPRSS is one program that the province has developed to expand how medical care is accessed in B.C. As pharmacists, we look forward to another program coming this spring: pharmacist prescribing for minor ailments and contraceptives. We will share more about that soon.