Recent changes to pharmacy practices in Ontario

Recent changes to pharmacy practices in OntarioEarlier this month, the Ontario government introduced several changes to pharmacists’ scope of practice.

Perhaps the biggest change and the one that certainly received the most coverage in the news, is that specially trained pharmacists are now able to administer flu shots. Previously, flu shots could only be administered by doctors at flu clinics set up by employers or other institutions; however, with fears in recent years over flu strains such as H1N1, combined with increasingly heavy workloads on doctors, administering flu shots has become a challenge in both time and resources.

What’s more, despite the heightened awareness surrounding the flu, there still aren’t enough people getting the flu shot – and that could be because of the difficulties in getting in to a see a doctor to receive one. Currently, only 33 percent of Ontario’s population gets the flu shot. However, in British Columbia, where pharmacists are permitted to give the shot, 50 percent of the population receives the shot.

As well, under the new changes, pharmacists can now:

  • refill some prescriptions (except for narcotics) for up to a six-month supply when a patient is unable to get to his or her physician;
  • adjust prescription dosages as needed;
  • prescribe medication to help people to quit smoking;
  • pierce the skin of a patient in order to help him or her with the monitoring of a chronic disease, such as teaching the patient how to use a blood glucose monitor; and
  • teach people how to use an asthma inhaler or to inject insulin and to administer the first dose for the purpose of education.

The government’s hope is that these changes will help to free up the province’s physicians, making it easier and faster for patients to receive the care they need.

“Pharmacists are highly trained and trusted health providers,” said Health Minister Deb Matthews. “It’s time that we benefit fully from all the services they can provide.”