On June 1 pharmacists across B.C. officially expanded their scope of practice, which now allows them to prescribe contraceptives and medications for 21 minor ailments.
The aim is alleviating challenges accessing prescriptions and over-the-counter medications for residents of British Columbia.
“When a person can go to the pharmacy and talk with their pharmacists, they have a new location where they can receive faster service,” said Cindy Preston, Director of Pharmacy at the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA). “It really is faster access, easier access, [and] earlier intervention.”
Minor ailments include allergies, shingles, sprains and strains, nicotine dependence, cold sores, pink eye, uncomplicated urinary tract infections, and contraception, among others.
According to the Ministry of Health, pharmacists can now assess patients' symptoms, check their medical history, and recommend treatment.
“Pharmacists are responsible for continuity of care,” said Preston. “Pharmacists will reduce those interruptions in treatments.”
As pharmacists expand their scope of practice, they also can renew prescriptions, adjust dose and timing for how medications are taken, alter the form of medication - such as from a tablet to a capsule - and substitute medications for others, reads the Ministry of Health website.
Additionally, pharmacists can administer routine vaccinations and prescriptions that are injected.
Although the new practices that pharmacists are offering will improve access for remote First Nation communities, Preston believes there is still opportunity to make changes so that they are more accessible.
“If we can continuously improve that team-based care, the collaboration between [doctors], nurses, [and] pharmacists, we will be able to better serve the remote First Nations,” said Preston. “Can you imagine if a nurse, in a remote health center, can call up a pharmacist and, with the patient, determine what needs to happen, and what needs to be sent out on the next delivery for them?”
“Now that we have the basics, we need to look at how we’re actually going to address that gap that still exists for the remote communities,” she added. “That accessibility is what we’re looking for.”
“I hope that moving forward, the government looks at [nurses] being able to do that too and prescribe it for the things that we’re certified for,” said Kelsey Rix (Hahahtmaq aqsa), a community health nurse in Ahousaht. “That would be cool if, ideally, this is expanded to, at least, remote nursing.”
The Ministry of Health notes that residents of B.C. can visit their local pharmacy in person or call to schedule an appointment, though, beginning on June 29, 2023, the province will be the first jurisdiction to launch a province-wide online appointment booking system, inclusive of a self-assessment guide.