How Pharmacists can Improve Health Care

When you think of a pharmacist, what comes to mind?

While many have a go-to image of someone in a white coat counting pills, the reality is that pharmacist’s role involves far more than that. Today’s pharmacists are highly respected as the medication management experts of the health care team. They collaborate with patients, their families and other health care providers to benefit the health of Canadians. The pharmacist’s traditional role is expanding, and pharmacists across Canada deliver a range of innovative services, including medication reviews, chronic disease management, immunization services and wellness programs. Most provincial governments have approved pharmacist prescribing with varying scopes of authority, a service that complements the care provided by a doctor and can result in more convenient refills, less time spent dealing with prescription changes and collaborative medication management.

To varying extents across the country, pharmacists have the authority to:

  • prescribe medications
  • dispense medications
  • administer medications
  • order, receive, conduct and interpret health tests

But the words to emphasis here are ‘to varying extents across the country.”

CARP wants members in each province to know what is available to them through pharmacists, and is advocating that all provinces authorise pharmacists to cover the full scope of pharmacist health services. 

Recently surveyed CARP members indicated their top concern in their life is access to prompt, quality health care.

Pharmacists are the most accessible health-care professionals in Canada, dispensing and providing advice on 750 million prescriptions per year. Convenient and close to home, pharmacists are taking on expanded roles and deliver an estimated $4.7 billion of value per year by improving access to care and reducing pressure on the health-care system. Pharmacists have a part to play in Canada’s health care system, and increasing the scope of authority for pharmacists across Canada is a key step in improving the health care of Canadians.

Pharmacists’ scope of practice and services

Pharmacist prescribing across Canada
Pharmacists in Canada have seen their prescribing powers expand significantly. Currently, all pharmacists across Canada have some level of prescribing authority but this varies by jurisdiction. This chart provides a detailed look at pharmacists’ prescribing authority in each jurisdiction.

Vaccination and injection authority
From flu shots to routine immunizations and travel vaccines, pharmacies offer convenient access to vaccines and injections. This chart provides an overview of pharmacy professionals’ authority to inject drugs and vaccines across Canada.

Controlled drugs and substances
During COVID-19, Health Canada issued temporary exemptions for prescriptions of controlled substances, which permit pharmacists to extend, transfer and accept verbal orders, and permit pharmacy employees to deliver prescriptions. This chart illustrates how these exemptions have been implemented across Canada.

Publicly funded pharmacy services by province
Provincial governments recognize the value of investing in pharmacy services and many provinces now cover these services as part of their provincial drug plans. This chart provides an overview of public payment for pharmacy services in each province.