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Pharmacists look to Alberta’s ‘gold standard’ model in increasing their prescribing powers across Canada

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The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) is ramping up efforts to increase the number of medical conditions pharmacists can treat, in what it says is an effort to help ease the pressures of an overburdened healthcare system.


Members of the CPhA held a national summit where it called on provincial governments to “collaborate to ensure all pharmacists can work to their full education, ensuring all peoples in Canada have access to a comprehensive range of services close to home.”


In a statement, the CPhA says governments should make pharmacists “as a first point of primary care,” with the goal to see pharmacists have a consistent list of responsibilities across the country.


As it stands, pharmacists’ abilities to treat ailments and prescribe drugs vary from province to province.


Alberta is the only province or territory that allows pharmacists full prescribing authority where they’re able to prescribe drugs for all conditions and/or ailments without a prescription from a doctor.


“Alberta are the gold standard, where they basically are autonomous prescribers, so that means they are independent and they are able to prescribe, based on their professional judgement, any medication that is available and everyone else is playing catch up,” said Justin Bates with the Ontario Pharmacists Association.


Other provinces like Ontario allow for pharmacists to treat and prescribe for 19 ailments in total, including seasonal allergies and the flu, but excludes their ability to prescribe birth control or medication for other conditions like a headache.


B.C. currently allows pharmacists to prescribe drugs for 21 ailments, while Saskatchewan allows for thirty.


“We know it works, we know the public embraces this,” said Bates.


“In Ontario, since January of 2023, we have had over 800-thousand assessments done of patients that’s resulted in referrals, consultations or prescriptions, the public wants this access and pharmacists are ready to do it.”


The CPhA says the next step is to lobby governments to follow Alberta’s lead.


“What we need to focus on is removing the regulatory barriers from the government,” said Danielle Paes with the Canadian Pharmacists Association.


“It’s happening and available in different provinces and we want to see that standardized across the country.”


But the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) says it supports pharmacists being integrated as part of a health care team, but not the idea of pharmacists replacing doctors.


“Simply having pharmacists provide front line access for minor ailments creates fragmentation, and often creates increased rather than decreased work for family physicians,” said the CFPC in a statement to CTV News.


“I think we need to reimagine what the system looks like,” said Paes in response to CFPC’s statement. “It’s about collaboration, we don’t want to substitute, we want to contribute.” 

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