B.C. reports 120% increase in prescriptions after pharmacists gain new powers

VANCOUVER — British Columbia government figures show a 120 per cent increase in the number of prescriptions renewed or adjusted after the province expanded pharmacists’ powers last October, part of an effort to ease strains in the health-care system.

B.C. pharmacists gained the ability to administer more vaccines and renew or adjust prescriptions for a wider range of drugs, with further changes on the way.

The move aimed to help ease the pressures on B.C.’s health-care system, including the ongoing shortage of family physicians and lengthy clinic wait times.

Recently released data show nearly 60,000 prescriptions were renewed or modified by pharmacists in January, more than double the monthly average of about 27,200 in the year before the changes.

The potential modifications include changes to the directions for use of a prescription, therapeutic substitution, and changes to dosage or formulation.

Pharmacist Christine Antler, regional director of pharmacy for Pharmasave, says patient care and health outcomes have improved since the expansion.

Pharmacists are also set to gain the power to prescribe drugs for contraception as well as minor ailments such as urinary tract infections and allergies starting June 1, which Adler says will bring B.C. in line with other provinces.

“Pharmacists already provide advice and over-the-counter recommendations to patients about medical issues every day, with almost every other province enabling their prescribing abilities,” she says in a statement.

“With their treatment capabilities set to expand further in B.C., pharmacists will soon offer patients more care options in line with how pharmacists currently support patients across the rest of the country.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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