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Holly

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Pharmacists getting power to prescribe: Patients will bypass doctors for some drugs
Thursday, June 01, 2006
by Michelle Lang, Calgary Herald

Albertans will soon be able to bypass the doctor's office and head directly to the drugstore to purchase some prescription medications from pharmacists in a first for Canada.

The Alberta government said Wednesday it's moving to allow pharmacists to prescribe some drugs under new regulations that will take effect as early as this fall.

The change will also allow the province's 3,500 pharmacists to extend and modify prescriptions from physicians as well as administer injectable drug treatments like vaccines.

"This gives more options for pharmacists . . . so patients don't necessarily have to return to their doctor at every interval," said Karen Wolfe, president of the Alberta College of Pharmacists.

"That's not to say that physicians are going to be out of the loop, but the intent is to allow patients to access care sooner."

Pharmacist Susan Younggren said pharmacists currently feel compelled to help patients who have run out of medication and won't be able to see their doctor for several days.

"We do it because we must," said the owner of Signature Medicine Centre Pharmacy on Sirocco Drive S.W. "It would be very much a relief if we had the authority to do it."

Currently, only a handful of health professionals such as doctors, nurse practitioners and dentists can prescribe pharmaceuticals.

The Alberta College of Pharmacists didn't have a comprehensive list of drugs that will be available through its members, but Wolfe said they will be able to prescribe medications for patients with minor ailments like swimmer's itch.

The plans call for pharmacists to receive appropriate training before being allowed to prescribe medications.

Any major medical conditions will likely still be referred to a physician.

Pharmacists will also be able to extend and modify existing prescriptions without having to contact a doctor's office -- a change that is expected to primarily benefit patients with chronic conditions.

Patients with asthma who run out of their medication, for example, will be able to ask their pharmacist for an inhaler until their next appointment with their physician.

The regulations will not permit pharmacists to prescribe narcotics or controlled substances, said Wolfe.

The changes are a Canadian first, although some countries, such as the U.K., allow pharmacists to prescribe drugs.

Wednesday's announcement was met with mixed reactions, with doctors' groups saying they have concerns, while some pharmacists applauded the move.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta -- which opposed pharmacists' independently prescribing drugs in a vote last fall -- said it is "cautiously supportive" of the new plan.

Spokeswoman Kelly Eby said the organization is worried pharmacists may not have the appropriate training and expertise to write prescriptions, but said the college believes those concerns will be addressed.

"We just want to ensure patients have the safety and security that whoever is prescribing knows exactly what they're doing," she said.

Another Calgary pharmacist said the new regulations will allow him to better serve customers.

"This is tremendous news," said Doug Levy, owner of Pharmacy On Call. "This is a happy day for pharmacies."

The Alberta College of Pharmacists said it's developing training for its members and commissioning an expert panel to determine what qualifications pharmacists must complete to prescribe drugs.

Alberta Health said pharmacists will only prescribe drugs for conditions set out by the college, ensuring they prescribe for ailments they are competent to assess.

The new regulations are expected to come into effect this fall, when the province proclaims legislation that governs the changes. Wolfe said it isn't clear when pharmacists will begin prescribing drugs to patients.

The Current System:
Only a handful of health professionals such as doctors, nurse practitioners and dentists can prescribe pharmaceuticals.

Planned Changes:
Pharmacists would prescribe some drugs, as well as extend and modify existing prescriptions, a change that could benefit patients with chronic conditions, such as asthma.
 

Holly

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Hi Everyone,
I do have a concern about this for many reasons! What do you all think?
Thank you Holly :)
 

David Baxter

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I would fully support limited authority to EXTEND prescriptions (e.g., for medications that should not be discontinued abruptly) for a limited time, enough to allow patients to make appointments to see a physician. I do not think this should be very flexible though because that would encourage people to leave doctors out of the loop.

I think giving pharmacists authority to write new prescriptions is a terrible idea. It's only a matter of time before somebody dies or suffers serious health complications or brain damage, in my opinion. Pharmacists simply to not have the medical knowledge, nor do they conduct medical examinations to look for potential complicating medical conditions.

If pharmacists want prescribing rights, let them go back to school and become physicians.
 

Holly

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Apr 27, 2006
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Hi Doc,
I am really wondering if this will be a trend across Canada, if it gets approved in Alberta. It is very dangerous, as you mentioned somebody could die!
I would worry about abuse of the system also, of course the education issue is an important factor!
Thank you for the input! I will let everyone know as this debates continues in Alberta!
 

poohbear

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Dec 31, 2005
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I read about this in the "American Journal of Nursing" recently. If I can find the article, I'll post it. What I dont get is why Pharmacisits would be given script writing authority, but not Nurse Practicioners. Nurse Practitioners go to school much longer than Pharmacisits, sometimes. Also, they often times, have a close working realtionship with the patient they're working with, in addition to the medical history needded to make an accurate decision. I agree with the Doc, to extend some meds might be okay, but new prescriptions could be disastrous!--poohbear
 

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