Pharmacists to renew prescriptions

Central Albertans will be able to renew prescriptions through their local pharmacist this summer, without having to see their physician.

Central Albertans will be able to renew prescriptions through their local pharmacist this summer, without having to see their physician.

Provincial Health Minister Fred Horne announced on Monday that pharmacists will be funded to renew and modify prescriptions as of July 1.

“I think this is good news for Albertans, for the health-care system and obviously physicians as well,” Horne said on Tuesday.

“There are a lot of pharmacists in Alberta who have already been doing this on an unpaid basis but now they are going to be paid for their professional service.”

Horne said the announcement is the product of three years of work and this is the first stage in the implementation of the new Alberta Pharmacy Services Framework.

“The work beginning in 2009 involved pharmacists across Alberta, businesses that run pharmacists and the Alberta College of Pharmacists.

“What they have been working on is changing from the old system of just paying pharmacists to dispense medication over the counter, to compensating them as members of the full health-care team,” Horne said.

There will be no additional fee for Albertans when they get their prescriptions renewed at their local pharmacies, a permanent change costing $20 million, which was set aside in the 2012-13 provincial budget. Instead, patients will go through an assessment and the system will be billed.

The province will pay pharmacists $20 per renewal. Doctors are paid $35 for a renewal.

“Really it’s a very, very small step in the right direction,” said Greg Eberhart, Alberta College of Pharmacists registrar.

“The announcement is not about a new role or new function for pharmacists. It’s really the government providing some dollars to pay for the services, which are already being provided by pharmacists.”

For about two years, pharmacists have been able to extend therapy, adapt and modify prescriptions with the collaboration of physicians. This allows pharmacists to renew prescriptions when physicians are on sabbatical or vacation, says Chris Chiew, pharmacy operations manager for the Southern Alberta area, which includes Red Deer.

“We don’t just extend the therapy and give the patient their medication. There is a list of questions that we would actually have to go through and we would print out a form to give to the doctor that states why we extended their therapy.

“So the physician is kept aware of what we’ve done as well,” Chiew said.

“I think it is a great announcement in health care in general. We are going to be working with the physicians to make sure that their patients are on their medication and at the same time we are not going to be clogging up the walk-in clinics and the ERs.”

More pharmacy services will be revealed in the coming months, according to the health minister.