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Government & policy

Alberta pharmacists want to order lab tests

EDMONTON – Two years ago, the Alberta government granted its pharmacists the power to write prescriptions for patients. Now, the pharmacists are asking for the right to order lab tests, as well.

The pharmacists say that ordering and interpreting lab tests would help them provide high-quality care to patients. What’s more, they say they understand laboratory tests and results, as this is part of their undergraduate training.

The Alberta College of Pharmacists says many of its members don’t have access to lab data on patients, such as blood test results, unless they are working with a team of other health professionals. The College of Pharmacists is proposing all pharmacists should have the ability to order lab tests on patients, in part, so they can monitor whether a drug is working.

The organization has asked the College of Physicians and Surgeons, which accredits public laboratories in Alberta, to add pharmacists to the list of professionals who can order the lab tests.

However, the College of Physicians and Surgeons wants to ensure pharmacists understand the tests they are ordering and their implications for the patient before it will support the request. The medical regulator says it’s in talks with the pharmacists’ organization about the issue.

According to guidelines issued by the College of Pharmacists:
Pharmacists participate at all points of the health system and share responsibility for ensuring safe and effective drug therapy. To do this, pharmacists must collect and consider appropriate information to evaluate and respond to patients’ health needs, and particularly to determine whether patients have any actual or potential drug-related problems. Laboratory data is amongst the information that pharmacists may consider in determining the safety and effectiveness of patients’ treatment regimens.

The Standards for Pharmacist Practice state that a pharmacist shall collect and consider appropriate patient information for all patients and that at each patient encounter a pharmacist shall evaluate the patient’s health needs to determine whether the patient has one or more actual or potential drug-related problems. Consideration of appropriate laboratory (lab) data is identified as a potential action in adhering to each of these standards.

Some purposes for which pharmacists may consider lab data include:
• ensuring that the drug and the dose ordered are appropriate for the individual patient,
• monitoring patients’ response to therapy to ensure optimal outcomes,
• monitoring for adverse effects to ensure patients’ safety, and
• screening patients for untreated health conditions where there are preliminary indicators for such screening (e.g., dyslipidemia as a secondary condition in diabetes).

The Alberta government, meanwhile, said it supports the pharmacists’ proposal.