By Janice Harvey, RPh, CDE
In October 2022, the scope of practice for community pharmacists in BC was expanded to allow for renewal of (and therapeutic changes to) prescriptions for a wider range of conditions, emergency supplies of medications for a longer duration, and injection of drugs other than vaccines. At the same time, prescriptions were deemed valid for 24 months instead of 12 months.
Prescribing for minor ailments and contraceptives will represent the biggest change to our scope of practice. So far, we don’t know much about this change, except that it will go into effect on June 1, 2023 and will likely include the following minor ailments:
- Allergic rhinitis
- Fungal infections
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Herpes labialis
- Oral ulcers
- Oropharyngeal candidiasis
- Musculoskeletal pain
- Nicotine dependence
- Threadworms or pinworms
- Uncomplicated UTI
- Urticaria, incl. insect bites
We’ll have to wait to see how much of an effect this will have on decreasing the strain on emergency rooms and family doctors’ offices. For example, as we will now be able to prescribe antibiotics for an uncomplicated urinary tract infection (UTI), we can prevent people from having to wait hours in the emergency room and free up medical staff to deal with more significant health concerns. For more complicated UTIs, we will still need to refer patients for medical care. In Alberta, pharmacists may prescribe for all conditions, but in all other provinces, including BC, pharmacist prescribing is for minor ailments only.
Providing assessments and prescribing will certainly increase our pharmacy workload, so it is unlikely that we can offer this as a walk-in service. We plan to offer this service by appointment, which will allow us to continue to offer other services (e.g., vaccinations, diabetes consults, medication reviews, compression therapy fittings) in a timely, efficient manner. You will be able to book your own appointment on our website or by phone.
These changes make better use of pharmacists as a member of your health care team, but they are not meant to replace visits with your family doctor (for those who have one). Whenever possible, you should still be seeing your family doctor for your prescription renewals, as this is the best way for your doctor to be fully engaged in your care.
We will share further details about pharmacist prescribing as soon as more information is available.