P.E.I. pharmacists welcome expanded role

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Pharmacists on Prince Edward Island are welcoming new authorizations allowing them to adapt a patient's prescription as well as substitute a prescribed drug, says the registrar of the P.E.I. Pharmacy Board.

Neila Auld, registrar of the P.E.I. Pharmacy Board, stands in front of South Shore PharmaChoice in Crapaud. Island pharmacists are welcoming new authorizations allowing them to adapt a patient's prescription as well as substitute a prescribed drug.

Adaptation and therapeutic substitution are the terms for the two expansions added to Island pharmacists' scope of practice during this past fall sitting of legislature.

Neila Auld said the changes will both improve efficiencies in the health care system and benefit patients by allowing pharmacists to make those decisions without first having to contact the original physician.

Adaptation will allow pharmacists to adapt prescriptions to modify dosage, formulation, regimen or duration.

"(For example) changing it from a pill to a liquid if the prescription is for a child who can't swallow a pill. It gives pharmacists the authority to make those changes with their expertise," said Auld. "Then what happens is they would put their name on the prescription as the prescriber and then notify the physician of what has been done."

Therapeutic substitution will allow pharmacists to prescribe a patient medication that contains chemically different active ingredients than an originally prescribed drug, but that is still expected to deliver a similar therapeutic effect.

Auld said there are a variety of reasons as to why a pharmacist would substitute a drug.

"There might be a drug shortage so they would pick a drug that's available or it could be based on the patient's drug plan," she said.

Auld said any cash customer without a drug plan who couldn't afford the price of a prescribed medication would possibly be able to get a prescription substituted to a lower-costing drug.

The new authorizations continue the process of expanding the role of Island pharmacists, which was introduced several years ago in the "Continued Care Prescribing Regulation."

That regulation has allowed pharmacists to provide a renewal for a chronic care prescription that has expired if the original prescriber can not be contacted.

The move has saved many patients from going to the emergency room or a walk-in clinic when their physician is not available, said Auld.

The new authorizations are another step in an ongoing transformation allowing pharmacists to play a more integral role in health care delivery through their expertise in medications, she said.

"We have further things we want to implement in P.E.I. This is just the beginning but were getting there," she said.

Auld said pharmacists are also aiming to get authorization to provide immunizations, as well as travel vaccines and preventable disease vaccines.

The ability to prescribe drugs for minor ailments and emergency prescribing are two other roles they're seeking, she said.

Auld said that P.E.I. is not the only province expanding pharmacists' roles and that it has been slower going through the process than many others.

"We're getting there little by little. We're hoping by the spring sitting (of legislature) we'll have more of this ready to go with government."

Geographic location: P.E.I.

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