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B.C. expansion of pharmacists' scope leads to many questions

Earlier this month, pharmacists in B.C. were given expanded powers to treat a variety of common ailments.
Pharmacists in B.C. are educating customers on what their new scope of work can and can't provide.

B.C. pharmacists' ability to diagnose and treat a list of ailments without a doctor's visit is a prescription for confusion for some.

Pharmacists have always answered over-the-counter questions from people looking for quick advice, but recently their scope of diagnosis and treatment has broadened.

On June 1, 2023 the provincial government began allowing pharmacists to diagnose and treat a variety of common ailments and also to prescribe birth control.

“We’ve had a lot of phone calls from people asking us what we can do,” says Josh Brady, a pharmacist and co-owner of Pivot RX in downtown Vernon.

He and his staff have been able to mitigate confusion and adjust to the increased demand for service because of the way their pharmacy is set up.

“We have three counselling rooms,” he says, which allows the space needed to properly assess a client’s needs.

“A lot of pharmacies that are busy already, may find it difficult to adjust to the increased clinical activity,” Brady predicts as the changes reach the one-month mark.

The changes are aimed at alleviating strain on hospital emergency rooms and reducing trips to walk-in clinics.

But, Brady says some pharmacies may struggle to implement the additional services if they aren’t set up with adequate staff or space for consulting.

For now, he and his team are busy educating people on what their new scope of work can and can’t provide.

“People think we can prescribe medication now instead of going to the doctor,” and that is not the case, “it’s limited to minor ailments,” Brady explains.

The province is paying an assessment fee to pharmacies to compensate for the increased workload.

Brady says the changes are really just an extension of what was being done before, but now it’s being formalized with documentation.