Pharmacists get long-awaited dispensing powers

With training, druggists can now prescribe drugs for common ailments and give injections of widely used vaccines

Pharmacy services have expanded beyond dispensing medication.
Pharmacy services have expanded beyond dispensing medication.

by Bobby Currie

As of Jan. 1, 2014 a transformed Pharmaceutical Act came into effect in Manitoba that will modernized the scope of pharmacy practice. The Act empowers pharmacists to begin offering an expanded range of primary care services. It was in fact passed and given royal assent in December 2006. It has awaited the development of regulations and backup arrangements to enable its implementation. Many other provinces have already undergone this transition successfully.

“Pharmacists are among the most accessible health-care professionals for Manitobans,” Health Minister Erin Selby stated in announcing the effective launch of the new law. “Legislative changes and new practice guidelines will allow them to play a greater role in supporting the health and well-being of people in our communities while improving accountability and enhancing patient safety.”

During the coming months, pharmacists will be starting to provide drug and vaccine injections for many diseases, and prescribe for common ailments such as acne and athlete’s foot. They will also prescribe other over-the-counter products and devices, such as inhalers used to control asthma.

So what does this mean for Manitobans? We take a closer look here at the pharmacist’s new roles, and review the ways the pharmacy is already there to help.

Applying the needle
With special training, Manitoba pharmacists will be able to provide injections right in their neighbourhood pharmacies to patients over seven years of age. Pharmacists’ participation in public vaccination campaigns, like the flu shots, will make it easier for the whole family to get the protection they need. Pharmacists will be vaccinating for many preventable diseases, such as Hepatitis A and B, HPV, whooping cough and shingles. In addition, pharmacists will now be better prepared to provide training and support to people learning to inject self-administered medications, such as diabetic patients injecting insulin.

Pharmacists are now allowed to prescribe medication for certain minor ailments.
Pharmacists are now allowed to prescribe medication for certain minor ailments.

Prescribing for minor ailments
The new legislation recognizes that people are themselves able to identify certain common medical conditions that may afflict them, and that pharmacists are able to provide front-line care for these conditions. Many Manitoba pharmacists will be certified to assess their patients and prescribe medication, when appropriate. This will take some burden off walk-in clinics and emergency rooms, so that people with more complicated cases get the care they need.

Here are some minor ailments that pharmacists may soon be able deal with:

  • Acne
  • Athlete’s Foot
  • Morning sickness in pregnancy
  • Rhinitis
  • Skin rashes and allergies
  • Thrush
  • Hemorrhoids

Disposing of unused drugs

Pharmacies across Manitoba are part of the Manitoba Medication Return Program that accepts expired and unwanted medications for proper destruction. Old and unnecessary medications are a household hazard. The program is set up so a person can gather all the medications they no longer need, empty them into a bag or other container and take them to their local pharmacy for disposal.

Managing medication
The pharmacist will consider a customer’s prescription medications as well as any vitamins or supplements they take. Any concerns that come up during this meeting can then be discussed with the customer’s healthcare team and recommendations made. This process allows an individual to be fully involved in their medication management. It minimizes the risk of interactions, redundant therapies and other medication-related problems.

Bobby Currie is the Manitoba Society of Pharmacists public relations committee co-chair.

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