Geraldine Vance: Finding our way forward

May 29, 2018

By all measures, 2018 has gotten off to a tough start for community pharmacy. The new generic drug pricing agreement developed jointly by the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance and Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association cuts deep, and it follows several years of significant cuts to the sector. The five-year initiative has created uncertainty and left most wondering what lies ahead.

As you read this issue of The Tablet, you will be sharing in the celebration of both the BC Pharmacy Association’s 50th anniversary and the 2018 winners of the BCPhA Pharmacy Excellence Awards. There is some exceptional patient care being delivered by B.C. pharmacists, and the Association’s 50th anniversary is a time to reflect on the advances that have been made in the profession. 

Year after year, community pharmacists have risen to the challenge of managing more and more patients under challenging and changing conditions. In 2017 it is estimated that pharmacists dispensed more than 70 million prescriptions to patients across the province. Each and every one of those patients who picked up their prescription had the opportunity to engage with a health-care practitioner that, in all likelihood, sees them more than any other member of the health-care team. We believe these precious opportunities are where the future of the pharmacy profession lies.

Much time is being spent adding new language to how pharmacists describe themselves – clinical pharmacists, distribution pharmacists and other terms have crept into the pharmacy lexicon. I think what is more important than labels is a reminder about what is, and always has been, at the core of the profession: caring for patients. This is where the value of pharmacy is proven, with many environments in which quality patient care can be delivered. Despite continuous changes to the pharmacy sector, the one constant over the last 50 years is that pharmacists have broad expertise, that when applied against individual patient problems, can make a difference to that patient’s well-being.

I certainly don’t want to minimize the very serious financial challenges that exist for community pharmacy across the country. Economic sustain-ability is directly linked to access. In simple terms, if pharmacies don’t have a sustainable business they won’t be there. And this reality may be most impactful in small communities, where access to pharmacy service is critical.

But what I do want to say is, that despite the dark clouds, community pharmacy has expertise and relationships with patients that can’t be met by any other health-care professional. With this at the centre of our under-standing, we can find a way forward.

I congratulate all those who came before us and established our association and have battled for pharmacy to stand in its rightful place in the circle of care for patients. Happy anniversary. 

This article is featured in The Tablet. The Tablet features pharmacy and industry news, profiles on B.C. pharmacists, information on research developments and new products.