B.C. pharmacists can soon prescribe birth control, some medications

Pharmacists in British Columbia will soon be able to prescribe some common medications and birth control starting Thursday.

Chris Chiew, the president of the BC Pharmacy Association, says this will help ensure “patients who need timely access” to medications for minor ailments can be helped by pharmacists.

Conditions like cold sores, pink eye, or acne to name just a few. Additionally, women needing contraceptives can visit a pharmacist for prescription starting tomorrow (Thursday). As pharmacists, we’ve often been asked by our patients for treatments for minor ailments. This exciting new change means that we have more treatment options and can provide greater care for patients when and where they need it,” Chiew, said. 

He says out of the more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province, more than 1,100 will be offering the service.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says pharmacists will be able to prescribe medications for 21 minor illnesses.

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Suzanne Solven, the CEO of the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia, also joined Dix for the announcement and says pharmacists have the education and qualifications to prescribe some medications.

“Pharmacists in British Columbia are qualified by the university training and education. And they have been providing assessments and recommendations to patients to treat their minor ailments with over-the-counter products for many, many years,” she said.

“The expanded scope to provide treatments that require a prescription for uncomplicated ailments, and contraception, pharmacists have more options now to offer to their patients.”

Solven adds that the college’s board has implemented a new standard of practices.

“We are requiring all pharmacists to take a regulatory education module to ensure that they’re aware of these new changes so that they will provide safe and professional pharmacist prescribing,” she explained.

One longtime pharmacist says the changes will make a big difference for patients.

“We come across countless patients every day, evenings, weekends, public holidays — asking us for our advice on their minor medical conditions,” a pharmacist at Shoppers Drug Mart said.

“They can’t get an appointment at the clinics and they can’t get an appointment at walk-in clinics, and they don’t want to go to the urgent care center or the emergency ER because the doctors and nurses there are so busy with and they’re tied up with more urgent cases. But tomorrow (Thursday), we pharmacists can exercise our knowledge, expertise, and training to assess these patients and maybe offer an immediate treatment plan.”

Last month, prescription birth control became free in the province as was first announced in Budget 2023.

Gabby Sarno says this added step will be a game-changer for people, calling on her experience of trying to get prescription birth control.

“The ability to access birth control for free right from your pharmacist will make it easier for people to get contraceptives whenever they need it without having to wait weeks, or in my case years, to get a doctor’s appointment,” she said.

“Sometime last year I had the unfortunate event of having a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) and it took such a long time to actually get a doctor. When I went to the clinic, even the urgent care, I was there over 12 hours and had to leave with just Advil and Tylenol.”

-With files from Greg Bowman and Robyn Crawford

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