Minor Ailment Assessments

Minor Ailments – FAQs

What is a minor ailment?

A minor ailment is a less serious medical condition that does not require lab or blood tests. Examples include cold sores, mild eczema, oral thrush, heartburn, hay fever, skin rash, fungal skin infections and yeast infections.

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How can my pharmacist help with a minor ailment?

Pharmacists can assess and prescribe a prescription level medication when necessary rather than recommending a milder over- the-counter treatment for certain less serious conditions.

What minor ailments will pharmacists be able to assess?

The list includes 33 minor ailments. The list is almost identical to the one already being applied in Nova Scotia. That list was developed in consultation with doctors in that province.

  • Allergic Rhinitis (hay fever)
  • Calluses and Corns
  • Contact Allergic Dermatitis (allergic skin rash)
  • Dandruff
  • Dysmenorrhea (pre-menstrual and menstrual pain)
  • Dyspepsia (indigestion)
  • Emergency Contraception
  • Fungal Infections of the Skin
  • Gastro-esophageal Reflux (heartburn)
  • Disease
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Herpes Simplex (cold sores)
  • Herpes Zoster (shingles)
  • Impetigo
  • Mild Acne
  • Mild Headache
  • Mild to Moderate Eczema
  • Mild Urticaria (hives, bug bites and stings)
  • Minor Joint Pain
  • Minor Muscle Pain
  • Minor Sleep Disorders
  • Nausea
  • Nicotine dependence
  • Non-infectious Diarrhea
  • Oral Fungal Infection (thrush)
  • Oral Ulcers (canker sores)
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
  • Threadworms and Pinworms
  • Upper respiratory tract conditions (cough, nasal congestion and discharge, sore throat, fever, malaise)
  • Urinary Tract Infection (uncomplicated)
  • Vaginal Candidiasis (yeast infection)
  • Warts (excluding facial and genital)
  • Xerophthalmia (dry eyes) (2021) (2022)

Pharmacists may also prescribe vaccines and/or drug products for preventable conditions, including: 

  • Meningococcal disease
  • Pneumococcal disease
  • Pregnancy (ie. prescribe birth control)
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
  • Varicella zoster (chickenpox)
I always get my prescriptions from my doctor. Is it safe to get prescription from a pharmacist?

Pharmacists are highly trained, educated and trusted health care professionals. They are the medication experts. Their university curriculum includes training on the assessment and treatment of these minor ailments. The minor ailments program includes mandatory regulations that oversee the scope of what a pharmacist can do.

In addition, all licensed pharmacists will complete mandatory training on the processes and standards they are asked to follow before they can offer you this service.

New Brunswick pharmacists have had the ability to prescribe medications under certain circumstance since 2008. They can already replace, extend and renew some existing prescriptions; issue a new prescription for pre-existing conditions in an emergency situation; alter prescriptions to accommodate special needs; change the drug dosage/formulation and make therapeutic substitutions.

Increased pharmacist involvement will actually help monitor which patients should be referred to physicians instead of patients self-treating indefinitely. This will help reduce the risk for patients.

With a minor ailment assessment always result in a prescription?

After the pharmacist assesses a patient they, in conjunction with the patient, determine the appropriate course of action. This could be a prescription or a recommendation for an over the counter medication. If a pharmacist assesses your condition but feels it is serious or requires follow-up, he or she will refer you to a doctor for additional assessment.

Will my doctor be informed?

Yes. Pharmacists are required by their Standards of Practice to inform your primary physician when they write a prescription for you. New Brunswick pharmacists have been notifying doctors of patients’ prescription changes since 2008 when they prescribing authority in certain other situations. This will continue under the minor ailments program.

Can my pharmacist prescribe me any kind of drug?

No. Unlike a doctor, pharmacists do not have the authority to prescribe controlled substances such as narcotics and other mood-modifying drugs. Pharmacists cannot prescribe drugs that can cause addiction or dependency and abuse.

Does this mean I no longer need a doctor?

Definitely not. Pharmacists can assess and prescribe for only certain minor conditions as set out in the new act and regulations. New Brunswickers can opt to visit their doctors or other health care professionals for treatment of minor conditions. Expanding the role of pharmacists to assess and treat minor ailments gives patients another choice for accessing health care services. Pharmacists will continue to refer patients with more serious conditions to their family physician or an emergency room.

What if I don't have a doctor, can a pharmacist still prescribe for a minor ailment?

Yes. If the condition and treatment required is within pharmacists' prescribing limits, you may still receive treatment even if you do not have a doctor. This service is intended to improve access to health care.

What happens if my minor ailment turns out to be more serious?

If your ailment becomes more serious or you are not seeing improvements with the medication prescribed by your pharmacist, you will be referred to your doctor for a diagnosis. This is part of the benefit of having earlier involvement of a pharmacist, they are trained to recognize when patients require additional assessment and care.

Do pharmacists in other provinces prescribe for minor ailments?

Pharmacists in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia already have authority to prescribe for minor ailments and other provinces are at various stages of granting this prescribing authority. Pharmacists in the United Kingdom have treated minor ailments for many years now.

How will my privacy be protected?

Your privacy is a priority for all members of the pharmacy team. Your records are then stored in accordance with all of Canada’s and New Brunswick’s privacy laws.

If a pharmacist writes me a prescription, do I have to get it filled at that pharmacy?

Pharmacists are legal prescribers and patients may have their prescription filled at the pharmacy of their choice, just as if a doctor had written the prescription.

I have a drug plan, will it pay for prescriptions written by pharmacists?

Pharmacists are recognized as prescribers by most drug plans.

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