I am sure we can all agree 2020 has been a memorable year—certainly one for the record books. In my many years as a community pharmacist, I do not recall a period of time when our pharmacy landscape changed so quicky, in response to a health crisis the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic. There were such dynamic changes in technology, pharmacy scope and regulations. I am amazed by how quickly we were able to put changes in place, and what we accomplished when we all worked together towards the same goal: providing quality patient care while protecting our pharmacies, our staff and our patients.
While others made the shift to virtual platforms, community pharmacies across B.C. stayed open. We are fortunate that we have existing scope of practice, such as emergency supply, adaptations that included renewals and therapeutic substitutions. This ensured continuity of care and support for our patients and ensured that if they had to self isolate or couldn’t see their prescriber, we were there to support them. Pharmacists spent many hours managing prescriptions and inventory to avoid potential drug shortages. We embraced new technology to accommodate the need for no-touch services, COVID-19 prescreening and appointment scheduling for vaccine administration.
The federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), section 56 exemption, along with the supportive College of Pharmacists of BC regulatory changes, allowed B.C. pharmacists to support their patients with controlled substances prescriptions and to provide them with an option of home delivery. Pharmacists stepped up and practised to their scope by accepting faxed and verbal controlled-substances prescriptions, transferring these prescriptions to pharmacies within B.C. to assist their patients, to deliver if warranted, and where appropriate, having a pharmacy team member do it on their behalf.
Looking back, I am reminded that our immunization authority came from the midst of a pandemic. Can we expect that significant practice change follow the COVID-19 pandemic?
As we continue to navigate through two public health emergencies—emergencies related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing opioid overdose crisis—it has never been more important for pharmacists to show that we can and will step up to support practice change, in ways that allow us to improve the lives and health outcomes of our patients, all while maintaining the viability of our pharmacy business.
My heartfelt thanks go out to all the pharmacists and pharmacy teams across B.C. You have done an amazing job on the frontlines, showcasing the essential and important role we play as health-care providers.
BC Pharmacy Association