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British Columbia Gets New Pharmacy Services

British Columbia Gets New Pharmacy Services
January 15, 2023

In the midst of a primary health care crisis, B.C.'s Minister of Health announced broad changes that expand the scope of practice for pharmacists in British Columbia. These changes ranged from being able to adapt and renew prescriptions for more medications to lifting restrictions on injections, which began on Oct. 14, 2022. At his announcement in September 2022, Minister Adrian Dix directed plans to allow pharmacists to be able prescribe for minor ailments and contraceptives by spring 2023. This page is better read by rotating your phone to landscape.

Expanding Injections

As part of the changes, restrictions on which medications could be administered via injection or intranasally by pharmacists have been lifted.
Pharmacists can now administer medications like B12 shots, anti-psychotics and other medications through injection as long as a patient has a prescription. What is excluded are cosmetic drugs and substances or allergy serums.

Jamie Wigston, President of the BC Pharmacy Association says, “Pharmacists have been key during COVID-19, ensuring British Columbians have been able to get their COVID-19 vaccines and flu shots. Pharmacists have consistently demonstrated our commitment to public health, and we should be very proud of that."

Prescription adaptation and renewals

With nearly 1 million British Columbians without a family physician, Minister Dix announced a health human resources strategy that included “optimizing the scope of pharmacists.”

Within a few weeks, this meant pharmacists could renew and adapt medications for all ongoing conditions, except for cancer chemotherapy, for up to 24 months from the original prescription date. Previously, mental health and cardiac medications — some of the most common medications — could not be renewed or adapted by pharmacists.

Emergency Supplies

Additionally, for patients who don’t have access to a prescriber or have difficulty in accessing one, pharmacists are being encouraged to expand the length of emergency supplies when appropriate. Depending on the patient’s specific situation that could be up to 90 days of an emergency supply.

“What we don’t want to see happen is patients going into the emergency department for prescription renewals. We are in a primary health care crisis, and it makes no sense for individuals to have to sit hours in an ER waiting for a prescription,” Wigston says.

“Pharmacists have the knowledge and the training to provide these clinical services and can deliver them well.”

Pharmacist prescribing on the horizon

For pharmacists like Fairuz Siraj of Victoria, having future of prescribing for minor ailments and contraceptives is what he was trained to do. A 2019 graduate of UBC’s Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Siraj has longed to join the ranks of his colleagues in other provinces.

“Those of us who are new practitioners are excited about practicing to the fullest scope possible. We’ve have wanted this since starting pharmacy school,” he says.

The Minister of Health gave a directive that work should begin so that pharmacist prescribing for minor ailments and contraceptives should be in place by the spring of 2023. That means the BC Pharmacy Association will work with the College and Ministry of Health on what the future looks like for pharmacist prescribing in B.C.

Fairuz is quick to point out that expanded scope for pharmacists doesn’t mean taking away roles from prescribers. What it means, is that physicians, nurses, and nurse practitioners are able to bring their expertise to patients to provide the best care.

“Now we’re all on the same team,” Siraj says. “There’s a lot of work to be done, but it’s exciting to see the Association do this.”

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