‘What’s best for the patient’: BC pharmacists can now prescribe contraception, treatment for minor ailments

BC Pharmacists will be able to prescribe contraception and medication for 21 minor ailments as of June 1.

In a media release, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the new services will make it easier for patients to access medication, while taking pressure off primary-care providers and the BC health care system.

Ubyssey coverage from June 2022 showed students reporting long wait times for health appointments through Student Health Services (SHS), something the SHS director attributed to an increased demand that emerged from the pandemic.

Ingrid Frank, a fourth-year pharmacy student, said she has seen the impacts of this change during her community practicum rotation, and it’s increased the “access of care” for the people she’s seen use this service.

“From what I've seen, it has helped already because it sometimes can be very difficult to contact your physician and set up an appointment,” said Frank.

According to the College of Pharmacists of BC (CPBC), due to these changes patients, particularly those in rural or remote areas, can expect improved timely access to medication, better health outcomes and improved access to health care services.

Polling by the BC College of Family Physicians revealed almost a million British Columbians do not have a family doctor and the government said this change will benefit over 750,000 patients.

CPBC said 75 per cent of eligible community pharmacists have completed the training required to be able to prescribe medications for minor ailments — like acne, conjunctivitis, oral herpes, ulcers and urinary tract infections — and contraception including birth control pills, copper and hormonal IUDs, implants, injections and emergency contraception.

According to Dix, pharmacists have received additional training following this change.

“There aren't enough physicians, or they just don't have the capacity,” said Frank. “[Pharmacists] are definitely equipped knowledge-wise and resource-wise. We really are the medication experts.”

Eligible pharmacies near campus include University Pharmacy, the Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies on campus and in Wesbrook Village and the Save-On-Foods pharmacy in Wesbrook Village.

To get a prescription from a pharmacist, patients must book through the BC government’s online booking system.

“People will be able to locate pharmacies that offer the service they need, be referred to self-assessment guides to make sure the service is suitable to them, then proceed to book an appointment with a pharmacy of their choice,” said Dix.

“This is a step in the right direction … we’re helping our community and our patients,” said Frank. “At the end of the day, the priority is the patient and we want what's best for the patient.”