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Quebec urged to expand pharmacists' health care role
March 14th, 2011
MONTREAL – Quebec's pharmacy professional organization has called on provincial lawmakers to expand the range of health care services that pharmacists can perform.
The Ordre des Pharmaciens du Québec said Monday that it has submitted a proposal to the government of Quebec that would give pharmacists more latitude with prescriptions and in providing basic health care services.
According to the group, the average wait in emergency rooms is 17 hours, doctors are overworked and pharmacists are restricted in their ability to help.
"Seven days a week, pharmacists in Quebec are forced to send their patients back to the walk-in clinic or emergency room just to get their prescriptions renewed or dosage adjusted. The same thing happens when people come to them with simple health problems they could treat. It makes no sense," stated Diane Lamarre, president of Ordre des Pharmaciens du Québec.
"Everyday, the skills of these highly educated health professionals are poorly utilized, depriving the public of this resource," Lamarre added. "People ask pharmacists for help, and the pharmacists want and can do more. But current legislation prevents them from doing so."
The proposed changes would enable pharmacists to extend some prescriptions in accordance with precise criteria, in stable clinical situations, as well as to adapt a prescription when necessary — for example, based on the patient's weight or allergies, according to Ordre des Pharmaciens.
Other changes include allowing pharmacists to help resolve simple health problems like cold sores and seasonal allergies; order certain laboratory tests, such as to monitor the safety of a course of treatment (e.g. kidney function); and to administer certain medications for the purpose of teaching patients how to do it (e.g. asthma inhalers) or meeting public health objectives.
Ordre des Pharmaciens noted that the proposed changes would require legislative amendments, so the group is calling for a bill to be passed. "The current situation demands that changes be made rapidly. The needs of the public are such that we're counting on the legislation becoming effective by the end of the year," Lamarre stated.
Many of these activities are already being performed by pharmacists in other Canadian provinces — in some cases for a number of years, according to Ordre des Pharmaciens. And the organization said that as is the case elsewhere in Canada, pharmacists performing the new services would be supervised.
"Two million Quebecers do not have a family physician. These Quebecers have difficulty obtaining a diagnosis and, meanwhile, we keep telling people to go to the emergency department to renew their prescription or get treatment for seasonal allergies," remarked Lamarre. "We know it is possible to do better than this."
In a public survey conducted for Ordre des Pharmaciens by CROP in January 2010, 92% of respondents agreed that pharmacists should be able to renew or temporarily extend prescriptions, and 91% said they trust pharmacists to help them deal with simple health problems.
During Pharmacy Awareness Week in Quebec, which runs March 13 to 19, Ordre des Pharmaciens is launching the web site pourlemieux.ca, where its proposals will be brought to life in three video capsules starring three real-life pharmacists. Each capsule illustrates the current limitations of the system and what a pharmacist could do to help with a patient's problem, the group said. In addition to the microsite, the campaign will be seen on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
"This campaign shows how simple changes would enable pharmacists to provide solutions to these problems," Lamarre stated. "Starting tomorrow, if we wanted, we could give the public better access to care and help our health system become more effective."