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Comment: B.C.’s pharmacists can help fill the gap in primary care

Pharmacists can now renew prescriptions for patients in many situations.
Pharmacist Denis Boissinot checks a bottle on a shelf at his pharmacy on March 8, 2012, in Quebec City. Since last October, community pharmacists in B.C. have been able to renew prescriptions for medications for any condition for patients who have been stable and on the same dosage of their medications for usually a minimum of six months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

A commentary by the president of the B.C. Pharmacy Association.

The Jan. 10 “Prescription renewal? Good luck getting one” expressed a reader’s frustration over trying to renew prescriptions for herself and her husband when their physician retired. Many British Columbians might not be aware of the important role pharmacists can play in helping patients access their medications in such situations.

Over the past several years, B.C.’s community pharmacists saw many of their patients having to go to the emergency departments or walk-in clinics to get prescriptions because they don’t have a family doctor or couldn’t see them quickly, which was exacerbated by the pandemic. This put enormous stress on patients and the health-care system.

However, changes announced last fall by Health Minister Adrian Dix to help alleviate the situation enable community pharmacists to provide enhanced care to their patients, especially those looking to renew their prescriptions.

Since last October, community pharmacists have been able to renew prescriptions for medications (except cancer chemotherapy) for any condition for patients who have been stable and on the same dosage of their medications for usually a minimum of six months. This includes medication for things like mental health conditions, diabetes and high blood pressure.

If a patient’s medication can’t be renewed or changed, pharmacists can issue emergency supplies to a patient while they look to find a prescriber.

Additionally, the College of Pharmacists changed the expiry date of a valid prescription from one year to two years. That means a pharmacist can renew a prescription that is more than one year old. (Pharmacists have always had the ability to renew birth control prescriptions for up to two years.)

The most exciting news is the announcement that pharmacists in British Columbia will soon be able to prescribe medications for minor ailments and contraceptives, including urinary tract infections (UTIs), pink eye, cold sores, acne, and dermatitis. That change will be made this spring.

Pharmacists are helping reduce patient wait times for prescriptions while eliminating many visits to doctors or ERs solely for prescription renewals, cutting stress on our health-care system.

Pharmacists have delivered more than 2 million flu and COVID-19 vaccines during the fall-winter campaign and have been on the front lines of the pandemic.

Dix has shown leadership in taking actions to combat the growing problems in primary care. Community pharmacists have the expertise and knowledge to help their patients get the critical medications they need in a timely fashion.

We look forward to continuing to serve British Columbians.

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