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B.C.’s changes to prescription rules have reduced family doctor calls

Starting Jan. 1, pharmacies can prescribe medication for these conditions at no cost to patients

The number of British Columbians getting their prescription medications renewed or adjusted at their local drug store, without first contacting a physician, has more than doubled since the province broadened the scope several months ago of what pharmacists are allowed to do.

Last fall, B.C. and Prince Edward Island gave pharmacists more prescribing powers, and Ontario and Yukon followed suit with similar amendments in January, while Nova Scotia has launched a pilot.

The changes across the country are meant to address a widespread shortage of family doctors, and long waiting times at walk-in and primary-care clinics that make it difficult for patients to refill prescriptions. Alberta pharmacists have had more leeway for more than a decade.

Newly released data for British Columbia shows that tens of thousands of additional patients are now able to get their prescription needs met.

Before the policy shift came into effect in October of 2022, pharmacists in B.C. would renew or alter a prescription 28,000 times a month, on average. Since pharmacists were authorized to adapt and renew prescriptions for a wider range of drugs and health conditions, that figure has been rising every month, with more than 66,000 adaptations in December.

The bigger change will come in March, when B.C. pharmacists will be allowed to prescribe drugs for minor ailments such as urinary tract infections and allergies, as well as for contraception.

Chris Stokes, a pharmacist at the Cridge Pharmacy in Victoria, said the change has relieved pressure for patients at a time when it is exceptionally difficult for many to see a physician to approve prescription changes or renewals.



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