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Government & policy

Nova Scotia gives pharmacists greater powers

HALIFAX – Recent changes to the pharmacy regulations will broaden the ability of pharmacists to provide prescription medications to better serve Nova Scotians. Pharmacists can now refill, extend or adjust prescriptions, and prescribe certain drugs so they can be covered by patients’ insurance plans.

“These new regulations will ensure that Nova Scotians can get the medicines they need even if they can’t get to their doctor right away,” said Health Minister Maureen MacDonald. “By more completely using the competencies of pharmacists, the regulations will improve access and create efficiencies in the healthcare system.”

A pharmacist can now refill or modify a prescription using his or her judgment, for example, changing it from a tablet to a liquid if that will be easier for a patient to swallow.

Pharmacists have been able to extend expired prescriptions until a patient could see their doctor, for up to 30 days. Now they can continue prescriptions for more than 30 days if appropriate, provide certain medications to patients when their doctor is not available, and change prescriptions to avoid delays dispensing them to patients.

Pharmacists in Nova Scotia can now also prescribe drugs typically sold from behind the counter or from the area right in front of the pharmacist. This change will help patients whose medical plan covers the cost of these drugs only if they are prescribed.

“Pharmacists are the experts in drug therapy and they have always used their knowledge and skills to select and provide appropriate medication to their patients, but in a limited manner,” said Susan Wedlake, registrar of the Nova Scotia College of Pharmacists. “This regulation will allow pharmacists to more fully utilize their medication management expertise in the interest of the health and well-being of Nova Scotians.”

When making any change to a prescription, the pharmacist must notify the person who prescribed it.

The regulations also allow the college of pharmacists to develop standards of practice for further changes to pharmacists’ work. Once the standards are complete, likely this fall, pharmacists will be able to prescribe drugs, including those that can now be prescribed only by doctors, dentists or nurse practitioners, to treat certain conditions.

“The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia supports this regulation and looks forward to working with the college of pharmacists in developing the standards that will guide practice in this area,” said Dr. Cameron Little, the college’s registrar and CEO. “This is an excellent example of how collaboration among health professions can better serve the needs of patients without compromising safety.”

The Nova Scotia College of Pharmacists will develop the standards of practice in consultation with the college of physicians and surgeons and other health professional colleges, as appropriate. Doctors, dentists, nurse practitioners, some optometrists and midwives now have the authority to prescribe medications in Nova Scotia.

Published February 11,2010