In a move hailed by Canadian drug chains, Ontario has approved regulations that allow pharmacists in the province to provide a broader range of pharmacy services, including prescription renewal.
"We support the Ontario government in its efforts to expand access to essential health services and increase immunization rates across the province, which results in healthier communities and lower overall health care costs," Rexall CEO Frank Scorpiniti stated.
TORONTO — In a move applauded by Canadian drug chains, the Ontario government has approved regulations that allow pharmacists in the province to provide a broader range of pharmacy services, including prescription renewal.
The office of Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty said Tuesday that the expansion of pharmacy services is part of the government’s Action Plan for Health Care, designed to provide improved access to affordable care from family doctors, nurse practitioners and other health care providers.
"By expanding the services pharmacists deliver, like the ability to give the flu shot, we’re giving Ontarians better access to the services they need while strengthening our health care system," McGuinty said in a statement. "It’s another way we are ensuring universal health care is there for our children and grandchildren."
New services that Ontario pharmacists can provide include adapting and renewing existing prescriptions; prescribing certain drugs to help people quit smoking; administering (by injection or inhalation) specific substances to a patient for the purpose of education and demonstration; piercing the skin to support patient self-care and monitoring of a chronic disease (such as diabetes); and giving a flu shot to a person age 5 and older (as part of Ontario’s Universal Influenza Immunization Program).
"The announcement is a critical first step in enabling pharmacists to deliver efficient, effective care for the patients we serve," Billy Cheung, chairman of the Ontario Pharmacists’ Association (OPA) board, stated in a news conference at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto. "We applaud Premier Dalton McGuinty and the Honourable Deb Matthews, Minster of Health and Long-Term Care, for their leadership and support of pharmacists’ expanded scope of practice. We would also like to acknowledge the considerable work of our regulatory body, the Ontario College of Pharmacists. Together, we will ensure Ontarians receive top-quality health care that is easily accessible."
Save for the flu shot, some pharmacies may charge a minimal fee for the services. Starting Oct. 22, people can visit participating pharmacies where specially trained pharmacists will administer the publicly funded flu vaccine.
"We are maximizing the services provided by pharmacists so that Ontarians can receive the care they need safely, quickly and closer to home," Matthews stated. "Pharmacists are highly trained and trusted health providers. It’s time that we benefit fully from all the services they can provide."
Leading drug chains such as Rexall and Shoppers Drug Mart couldn’t agree more.
"We are very pleased with today’s announcement, it will result in greater and more convenient access to flu shots across the province," Rexall chief executive officer Frank Scorpiniti said in a statement. "On behalf of the over 700 Rexall Pharma Plus pharmacists located in communities all across Ontario, we support the Ontario government in its efforts to expand access to essential health services and increase immunization rates across the province, which results in healthier communities and lower overall health care costs."
The drug chain said all Rexall Pharma Plus pharmacists in Ontario are readying to give the flu vaccine once it’s available this season, and the company is working with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and with Public Health Ontario to ensure that Ontarians have timely access to the vaccine. The other professional services will be available at Rexall drug stores in the province once guidelines have been released by the Ontario College of Pharmacists.
"We have invested in training and infrastructure to ensure we are ready to make it easier to receive the flu shot across the province," Scorpiniti added.
Shoppers Drug Mart said that in anticipation of the new legislation, more than 600 of its pharmacists across Ontario have completed their flu vaccination training, and flu clinics are being offered in more than 460 stores.
"The provincial government’s decision to expand the scope of practice for pharmacists and include them in the flu vaccination system is an important step in helping to make flu vaccinations more accessible for Ontarians," stated Dorian Lo, executive vice president of pharmacy and health care at Shoppers Drug Mart.
Beginning on Oct. 15, consumers can go to Shoppers Drug Mart’s website to find a local Shoppers Drug Mart store offering flu vaccinations.
"Local pharmacists can play an active role in keeping Canadians healthy and are available to answer patients’ questions about the flu virus and provide personal advice on how to protect against it," commented Victor Wong, a Shoppers Drug Mart associate-owner and pharmacist. "Being able to administer the flu shot means that pharmacists are in a better position to provide the best care to patients."
Dennis Darby, CEO of the OPA, noted that flu immunizations are only the beginning. "By utilizing pharmacists to provide flu shots, to refill prescriptions, to adjust medications for patients with diabetes, or even prescribe drugs to help them stop smoking, we are substantially contributing to a sustainable, publicly funded health care system," he stated. "In collaboration with physicians and nurse practitioners, pharmacists can now do more to help patients manage their conditions by providing the best medication therapy."
According to the OPA, pharmacists can help realize improved patient outcomes and significant savings in a range of other areas, including ordering and interpreting laboratory tests and prescribing and counseling for minor ailments.
"There are many more ways pharmacists can contribute to improved patient outcomes," added Darby. "Daily, pharmacists interact with many of Ontario’s most vulnerable populations. The OPA is currently engaging in research to identify the significance and value of the impact pharmacists can have on the care provided to seniors and those with chronic conditions. Our goal is to show how expanding the role of the pharmacist can drive even greater value and sustainability for Ontario’s healthcare system."