Ask Your Pharmacist

May 19, 2020
Q:

With all the chaos of COVID-19, I want to avoid after-hours clinics and the ER. Would you review some of the healthcare services that my community pharmacist can help me with?

A:

I’d be happy to! Thanks for your question. New Brunswick pharmacists continue to work with primary care providers and other health care professionals to provide you with timely access to health care. We want you to be healthy and happy! Many doctors have set up virtual care clinics or are doing consultations over the phone, so be sure to check in with your doctor if you need to. However, because pharmacies have remained open during the pandemic, pharmacists are well placed to advise you and assist you with your medication therapy and other health care services during this challenging time. Below are just a few examples of some services your pharmacist can provide.

If you are unable to see your doctor to get a prescription renewed before you run out of refills or before the prescription expires, your pharmacist can help. In many cases, your pharmacist may use her/his professional judgment to assess whether or not it is safe and appropriate to provide you with a continued care prescription to avoid interruption of your medication therapy and to give you a chance to get in to see your doctor or nurse practitioner. Assessment by your primary care practitioner (i.e. physician or nurse practitioner) remains very important. The role of the pharmacist in this situation is to bridge the gap in care until you can see your primary care provider. Your pharmacist can also adjust your dosage in certain circumstances too. New Brunswick pharmacists currently make roughly 20,000 prescription adaptations per month, saving unnecessary trips to ERs or after-hours clinics. Your pharmacist will work closely with your doctor or nurse practitioner to ensure your records are complete and will recommend that you follow up with your doctor or nurse practitioner.

Most provincial governments have approved pharmacist prescribing with varying scopes of authority, a service that complements the care provided by a doctor or nurse practitioner and can result in more convenient refills, less time spent dealing with prescription changes and collaborative medication management. Your pharmacists can issue a new prescription for pre-existing conditions in an emergency situation, alter prescriptions to accommodate special needs, change the drug dosage/formulation, make therapeutic substitutions, and establish collaborative practices with physicians.

New Brunswick pharmacists can also assess, treat and if necessary, prescribe for certain minor ailments like cold sores, uncomplicated urinary tract infections and allergies. A minor ailment is a less serious medical condition that does not require lab or blood tests. Minor ailments are usually short-term conditions that can be managed with minimal treatment and/or self-care strategies. They can be managed by your pharmacist at the pharmacy.

A list of the 39 minor ailments that New Brunswick pharmacists may prescribe for is available at: https://nbpharma.ca/your-pharmacist-can/6

There is a fee for the assessment, whether or not the pharmacist prescribes a medication. This service is not yet covered by Medicare. Your Health Service Plan may help cover the cost. Fees vary by pharmacy so it is best to check with your local pharmacy.

Dr Kevin Duplisea (PharmD BSc. Pharm, BSc. ACPR) is a pharmacist at Sharp’s Corner Drugstore in Sussex, New Brunswick. His opinions expressed in this newspaper are published for educational and informational purposes only, and are not intended as a diagnosis, treatment or as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Send your questions to AskYourNBPharmacist@gmail.com.