Inside This Issue - News
Role of pharmacists enlarged in Ontario
October 22nd, 2012
by Alasdair McKichan
TORONTO – Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty opted to himself announce the introduction of regulations that extend the powers of pharmacists.
He could have left that duty to Minister of Health and Long Term Care Deb Matthews, whose department had the responsibility for framing the regulations for pharmacy practice and will administer them. But, clearly, the premier felt his personal participation would serve to emphasize his government’s understanding of the value that community pharmacy brings to the health care system.
The venue he chose for the announcement, the Leslie L. Dan Faculty of Pharmacy building on the University of Toronto campus, served to underline the provincial government’s appreciation of the profession’s status.
The new regulations authorize pharmacists to perform five functions that until now have been the preserve of physicians:
• The adoption and renewal of prescriptions in defined situations.
• The administration of specific substances to a patient for demonstration purposes.
• The prescription of drugs for smoking cessation.
• Piercing of the skin to support a patient’s self-care and monitoring of a chronic disease (cited as an example of the use of this power was a pharmacist demonstrating how to properly use a blood glucose monitor);
• Giving flu shots to patients over five years old.
Perhaps not surprisingly, with the announcement being made on the eve of the flu season, the power to administer flu shots, beginning October 22, attracted the most attention, all of it positive, from the media. This particular activity is also the only one that the government has confirmed it will remunerate.
Pharmacists who have completed flu vaccination training will be entitled to deliver the shots and receive the $7.50 fee for so doing established under the Ontario Universal Influenza Immunization Program.
Although the other new services are not to be remunerated under the province’s drug plan, pharmacists may elect to charge patients for them. So far none of the major chains has indicated whether it will adopt this course.
“This is a critical first step in enabling pharmacists to deliver efficient, effective care for the patients we serve,” said Billy Cheung, chair of the board of the Ontario Pharmacists’ Association (OPA).
Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores chair Sandra Aylward commented, “Through expanding the scope of pharmacy practice to include delivering flu shots, prescription renewals and smoking cessation therapies, the government is helping patients access the vital care they need at a location that is close to where they live and work. This is good news for Ontario families and pharmacies alike.”
In a release supporting the government’s introduction of the new powers for pharmacists, Shoppers Drug Mart noted that over 600 SDM pharmacists across the province had already completed their flu vaccination training and flu clinics are being offered in more than 460 stores to help Ontarians prepare for cold and flu season this year.
“Preparation is crucial to avoid getting the flu,” said Dr. Dorian Low, SDM’s executive vice president of pharmacy and health care. “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 make flu vaccinations more accessible for Ontarians.”
Frank Scorpiniti, chief executive officer of Rexall Pharma Plus, issued a statement applauding the Ontario government’s announcement, noting that it will expand the role of pharmacists to provide more options for Ontarians’ health care needs.
“We are very pleased with today’s announcement," he said. “It will result in greater and more convenient access to flu shots across the province. 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 care services and increase immunization rates across the province, which results in healthier communities and lower overall health care costs.”
Scorpiniti said Rexall Pharma Plus had invested in training and infrastructure to ensure the company was ready to make it easier to receive the flu shots.
Physicians appeared to be on board with the new regulations. Dr. Doug Weir, president of the Ontario Medical Association, said his organization, representing 25,000 physicians, “will be working closely with pharmacists and others who choose to extend their scope of practice.”
David Darby, OPA’s CEO, remarked that there are many more ways pharmacists can contribute to improve patient outcomes. “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.”