On Sept. 2, 2021, BC Pharmacy Association CEO Geraldine Vance presented to the B.C. Government’s Select Standing Committee on Finance and Governance Services to advocate for community pharmacists.
Vance pointed to the success community pharmacists have had to provide immunization services for the public since 2009, and our ongoing work to serve patients with opioid use disorder through the Association’s opioid agonist treatment (OAT) compliance and management program.
“We’re now happy to be in discussions with Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson about an opportunity to provide more support to patients with opioid use disorder. It’s important, because sometimes patients can’t see their physicians, leaving them without a supply of their medications, which keeps them safe. Our proposal would allow patients to see their pharmacists when they need a supply of medications, rather than to be exposed to toxic street drugs,” Vance told the committee.
“When it comes to prescribing, we have seen the impact COVID has had on the demand for health care services. This is especially so in rural areas. There’s an opportunity to allow pharmacists to prescribe in certain circumstances to help meet these growing needs. Many provinces allow pharmacists to prescribe medications for ailments such as cold sores or acne.”
On Sept. 28, the Association followed up with a formal proposal for government, in which we elaborated on our requests. First, the Association hopes pharmacists will be able to adapt prescriptions for OAT patients to ensure there is no disruption in access to their medications. Secondly, our proposal calls for a collaborative approach to increasing patient access to safe supply through pharmacist-initiated prescribing.
“We propose allowing pharmacists to fill the gaps in care and help reduce unnecessary exposure to the toxic supply of street drugs. Pharmacists already have the knowledge, training and authority to adapt and renew many medications,” reads an excerpt from the letter.
The Association also requested that the provincial government utilizes the potential of pharmacists to help expand the primary care network for British Columbians by providing a new scope of practice for pharmacists.
“In other provinces and around the globe, community pharmacists have prescribing authority for a range of self-diagnosable, limited conditions. Often referred to as “minor” or “common” ailments, the conditions pharmacists in a number of other provinces can prescribe for would otherwise require a patient to visit their family doctor,” we wrote.
Alberta, for example, was the first province in Canada to enable pharmacist-prescribing. Since 2016, there has been a 50% increase in the number of pharmacists in that province with additional prescribing authority. Allowing pharmacists to prescribe is especially important in rural and remote communities where access to physicians may be limited.
Locally in B.C., a 2019 survey conducted by Ipsos found that 83% of British Columbians supported the idea of allowing pharmacists to consult and prescribe in some limited situations. When asked to elaborate, survey respondents supported pharmacist-prescribing in 13 conditions, ranging from cold stores to urinary tract infections to child vaccinations.
A copy of our submissions can be found at bcpharmacy.ca/advocacy/submissions