Ontario growing pharmacists’ prescribing powers, eyes further expansion

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Published March 23, 2023 at 4:38 pm

Ontario is giving pharmacists additional prescription powers, and is considering allowing them to administer certain treatments and medications through injection.

Two months after regulatory changes allowed Ontario pharmacists to prescribe treatments for 13 common ailments, Ontario announced Thursday in its budget that it is planning a further expansion.

Health Minister Sylvia Jones had asked the Ontario College of Pharmacists earlier this month to draft regulations that would allow pharmacists to prescribe for mild to moderate acne, canker sores, diaper rash, yeast infections, pinworms and threadworms, and nausea and vomiting in pregnancy.

The budget confirmed that the government would be giving pharmacists prescribing powers for those ailments.

The Ontario College of Pharmacists said the minister had also asked the college’s minor ailment advisory group to explore adding even more ailments to the list and to prepare recommendations for this fall.

Justin Bates, the CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists Association, said prescribing allowed this year for the 13 common ailments, such as pink eye, hemorrhoids and urinary tract infections, has been a “fantastic success.”

There have been 86,000 assessments and more than 70,000 prescriptions generated across the province so far, “which is much higher than we thought would be the case,” Bates said in a recent interview.

“We’ve got the majority of pharmacists performing them and the public accepting that and using it as it was intended.”

Even with the 13 common ailments, pharmacists in Ontario are still only allowed to prescribe for the smallest number of conditions, Bates said. Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island have a list of 32 conditions, he said, and Alberta pharmacists have prescribing authority for all medications that aren’t controlled substances.

“We are looking forward to an expanded list now that we’ve demonstrated the capacity of our sector to be able to do it and I think the acceptance of the public as well, as an additional channel to receive community-based care,” Bates said.

A spokesperson for Jones said earlier this month that the government was considering expanding the scope of what certain health professionals, such as nurses, can do in periods of “high patient volumes.”

That list of health professionals also includes pharmacists, and spokeswoman Hannah Jensen said the ministry is looking at allowing pharmacists to administer certain substances by injection or inhalation.

“Maximizing professional scopes to increase flexibility is a lesson learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and a key part in building a health-care system that is easier to navigate and provides Ontarians with access to faster, more convenient care, when and where they need it,” she wrote in a statement.

The pharmacists’ college had actually submitted draft regulations to the minister in 2019 that would allow for the expanded injection scope, but they weren’t approved at the time.

Bates said such injections would be shots other than immunizations, such as vitamin B-12 shots, or certain injectable antipsychotic medication, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis drugs and birth control.

Allison Jones and Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

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