Minor Ailment Assessments

What is a minor ailment?

A minor ailment is a 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. Listen here

How can my pharmacist help with a minor ailment?

Pharmacists can assess your condition and prescribe a prescription-level medication when necessary rather than recommending a milder over-the-counter treatment.

Highly trained and trusted health care professionals, New Brunswick pharmacists have been able to prescribe medications under certain circumstances since 2008. They can 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. 

Pharmacists' university curriculum includes training on the assessment and treatment of minor ailments, and includes mandatory regulations that oversee the scope of what a pharmacist can do. Further, all licenced pharmacists complete mandatory training on the processes and standards they are asked to follow before they can offer minor ailment assessments.

What minor ailments will pharmacists be able to assess?

The Department of Health offers the following Services to eligible residents of New Brunswick (i.e. the following are covered by Medicare):

Pharmacists can also assess and prescribe for the following minor ailments, however, these services are not covered by Medicare and will be directly billed. 

  • Allergic Rhinitis (hay fever)
  • Calluses and Corns
  • Dandruff
  • Dysmenorrhea (pre-menstrual and menstrual pain)
  • Dyspepsia (indigestion)
  • Emergency Contraception
  • Fungal Infections of the Skin
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Mild Headache
  • 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)
  • Vaginal Candidiasis (yeast infection)
  • Warts (excluding facial and genital)
  • Xerophthalmia (dry eyes) (2021) (2022) (2023)

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

  • Lyme Disease
  • Meningococcal disease
  • Pneumococcal disease
  • Pregnancy (ie. prescribe birth control)
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
  • Varicella zoster (chickenpox)
Will a minor ailment assessment always result in a prescription?

After your assessment, the pharmacist will determine the appropriate course of action. This could be a prescription, a recommendation for an over-the-counter medication, or a referral to a doctor for additional assessment or follow-up in the case of more serious conditions. 

Will my doctor be informed?

Yes. Since 2008, pharmacists have been required by their Standards of Practice to inform your primary physician when they write a prescription for you.

Can my pharmacist prescribe me any kind of drug?

No. Pharmacists do not have the authority to prescribe controlled substances such as narcotics or 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.

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

Yes. If the condition and treatment required are within pharmacists' prescribing limits, you may 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 condition does not improve or becomes more serious with the medication prescribed by your pharmacist, you will be referred to your doctor for a diagnosis. This is part of the benefit of involving a pharmacist early: they are trained to recognize when patients require additional assessment and care.

Do pharmacists in other provinces prescribe for minor ailments?

Yes. Pharmacists in most Canadian provinces have the authority to prescribe for minor ailments, with varying levels of service coverage through their provincial Medicare programs. Pharmacists in the United Kingdom have treated minor ailments for many years now, and pharmacist prescribing is growing globally as a critical solution for healthcare access.

How will my privacy be protected?

Your privacy is a priority for all members of the pharmacy team. Your records are 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?

No. 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.

Will my drug plan pay for prescriptions written by pharmacists?

Pharmacists are recognized as prescribers by most drug plans.

Pharmacy pilot offers access to primary health care