B.C. pharmacists will now be allowed to renew prescriptions as family doctor crisis lags on

WatchPharmacists will soon be able to prescribe certain medications, and renew others for up to two years, as part of changes made by the B.C. government to deal with the ongoing healthcare crisis. Rob Shaw has more.
Photo credit: Olga Delawrence/Unsplash

Pharmacists in British Columbia will soon be able to refill and renew prescriptions for those without a family doctor as well as prescribe medication for a range of ailments.

The B.C. government announced Thursday that beginning Oct. 14, pharmacists will be able to renew prescriptions for chronic conditions and refill existing valid prescriptions for up to two years for those who have difficulty accessing a family doctor or don’t have one.

Adrian Dix, minister of health, called the changes significant and said it brings B.C. in line with other provinces.

“It allows us to provide better care for patients using the exceptional skills of B.C. pharmacists,” he said during a press conference Thursday. “This allows greater access to medication for patients who may unexpectedly run out of their annual refills.”

Starting in 2023, pharmacists will also be able to issue prescriptions for contraception as well as less acute ailments such as allergies, indigestion, urinary tract infections and acne. At the moment, someone with a urinary tract infection must be assessed and treated by a primary care provider such as a family doctor or ER doctor.

Furthermore, a person will be able to visit their local pharmacy starting next spring for assessment and recommendations on treatment.

The changes are intended to pressure off the province’s primary care system and reduce emergency room wait-times.

“All of this, I think, is a positive expansion in the access to care for patients in B.C,” Dix said. “It’s not focused on barriers; it is focused on team-based care, on healthcare professionals working to the full extent of their scope of practice and working together to see that patients get the care that they need.”

Jamie Wigston, pharmacist and president of the BC Pharmacy Association, said during the press conference that the changes will help many individuals who struggle to get a prescription refilled or renewed through primary care. He also said the changes will benefit those who live in rural or smaller communities where there may be a pharmacy but a medical clinic or primary care may be hours away.

“This is especially important to individuals dealing with mental health and substance use disorders who need access to their medication in a timely and critical manner,” said Wigston.

In a statement to CHEK News, the Ministry of Health said a person seeking a prescription renewal from a pharmacist if they meet one of the following conditions:

  • They do not have a family doctor or consistent primary care provider (e.g. nurse practitioner) and they have a valid prescription (within two years of it being written) from a walk-in clinic or UPCC, and they need it renewed.
  • They had a family doctor or primary care provider at one point in time, are no longer attached, and their prescriptions are still valid (within two years of it being written).
  • They currently have a family doctor or primary care provider but are having difficulty scheduling an appointment with them and need their medication immediately, and their prescriptions are valid.

Patients must also be on their medications for six months or more, in order to be considered for prescription renewal by a pharmacist. Those who do have a family doctor should seek a prescription renewal from them first and only use a pharmacist as a last resort, the ministry noted.

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Nicholas PescodNicholas Pescod
Rob ShawRob Shaw

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