Lovell Drugs, Kingston ON
By Hiba Kesebi
Brent Schneider has witnessed more changes to his role as pharmacist in the past five years than he has experienced in his entire 30-year-career.
That’s because in 2012, the Ontario government passed regulations allowing for pharmacists to have a broader range of patient services that they can provide.
On Nov. 28, Schneider and his team of pharmacists met with MPP Sophie Kiwala to discuss these changes as part of the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada’s Healthcare Closer to Home initiative, which highlights the expanding range of services that pharmacists can now provide.
“Because of these changes, we are providing easier access to care,” explained Schneider, pharmacy manager for the Medical Arts Pharmacy on Princess Street. “Health care is not a competition; healthcare is about having the services available for people in a timely fashion and we are able to help provide those services,” he added.
Under the bill, pharmacists can now renew prescriptions for up to six months or for the length of the original prescription, whichever is less. They can also alter the formulation of a prescription – for example, from a liquid to a capsule – change the regimen or the frequency, which medication should be administered, and adjust the dose of a medication, if necessary.
“Right now, if someone with asthma comes in to the pharmacy on a Friday night and they need another inhaler, their doctor is gone, they can’t get down to emergency but they are here, we actually have the scope to renew prescriptions,” explained Joel Donnelly, a pharmacist with the Medical Arts Pharmacy.
According to Donnelly, pharmacists cannot prescribe any medication – unless it’s for smoking cessation and is done through the Ontario Pharmacy Cessation Program, which provides smokers with the access, medication, expertise and ongoing counselling they need to quit.
“We have had really positive feedback from smoking cessation. We have a few patients, who every time they come to the pharmacy, tell me they are still not smoking,” Donnelly said, noting the effectiveness of the program.
In addition to having more autonomy over renewing and administrating medication, pharmacists can also provide wellness counselling, which allows them to demonstrate to patients the proper use of devices like glucose meters, inhalers, and epi-pens.
Pharmacist can also meet with patients, whether it is through home visits or in-pharmacy visits, to discuss their medication history and assess their medication profile.
“Many times patients like to come in before a planned hospital admission or elective surgery to reconcile the medications and have a current list of all the medications they currently take to provide their surgeon or physician,” said Jen Belcher, who is also a pharmacist with the Medical Arts Pharmacy.
Belcher noted the importance of wellness counselling as it ensures patients are properly taking care of themselves, which reduces the risk of needing specialized or emergency healthcare.
Thanks to the 2012 regulation, pharmacists can now also administer flu vaccinations.
In fact, over 2,500 pharmacies in Ontario have trained pharmacists who can administer the flu vaccine to patients who are five years old or older. Last year, pharmacists injected more than 650,000 people with the vaccine.
Having pharmacists administer the vaccine ultimately reduces the strain on the healthcare system and allows physicians the time to focus on more complicated cases, explained Schneider.
“Because we are dealing with healthy people who want to stay healthy, physicians can then have more time to deal with people who are sick and need to be diagnosed,” he added.