Bill 31 allowing pharmacists to administer vaccines: Good news for access
Québec Health Minister Danielle McCann tabled a bill to amend the Pharmacy Act that would add activities reserved to pharmacists, and so facilitate access to health care and services
The Bill would allow pharmacists to prescribe and administer vaccines such as the flu vaccine, as is the case in other Canadian provinces. These services are in addition to the ones already delivered throughout the health and social services network. More vaccination sites and time slots would be accessible, resulting in greater vaccine coverage among the population. Pharmacists would only be allowed to administer vaccines to people aged 6 years and over.
In pharmacies, vaccines covered under Québec’s immunization program will be free, as is already the case in CLSCs and medical clinics. The flu vaccine will also be free for vulnerable clienteles who qualify for the program.
The Bill would also allow pharmacists to prescribe and administer medications in emergency situations, especially vaccines. Patients can easily access pharmacists, who are one of the main sources of local health services; as a result, pharmacists sometimes have to deal with emergency situations. One example is a patient who has a severe allergic reaction, an emergency requiring the administration of epinephrine.
“Québec pharmacists are very competent and want to fulfil their roles as health professionals in an evolving context. The Government of Québec is giving them more autonomy to exercise this role. Their expertise and proximity to their clienteles enable pharmacists to provide quality care on a personal basis. We are very grateful, and this is why we wish to allow pharmacists to perform additional tasks: the contribution of pharmacists is essential to our objective of making our health network effective and accessible.“ Danielle McCann, Minister of Health and Social Services
The Bill also proposes other measures, such as the following:
- Prescribe all non-prescription medications. Although over-the-counter medications are sold without prescriptions, allowing pharmacists to prescribe them would avoid unnecessary medical visits, whether for economic reasons (vulnerable clienteles who have free access under the public system) or to meet the requirements in daycare services or early childhood centres (CPE).
- Allow pharmacists to administer a medication by intranasal route.
- Adjust or renew prescriptions of all prescribers, not only those of physicians.
This measure would help solve problems many patients have experienced, especially in the Outaouais region, where patients must see doctors in Ontario. It would also optimize prescriptions given by other prescribers, such as dentists or specialized nurse practitioners.
- Initiate, adjust or stop medication therapy according to a prescription or following a consultation conducted at the request of a prescriber.
- Substitute, for a prescribed medication, another medication even if it does not belong to the same therapeutic subclass.
Giving pharmacists more possibilities to substitute medications would enable them to better deal with the growing problem of drug shortages and would more effectively minimize the effects on patients.
- Prescribe and interpret not only laboratory analyses but also any other tests for the purpose of monitoring medication therapy.
Doing appropriate tests or analyses would also detect undesirable effects more quickly, and thus prevent them. It would also enable pharmacists to verify the effectiveness of certain medications.
- Lastly, the bill provides that pharmacists may assess the physical and mental condition of a person to ensure the proper use of medications.
Seven new activities since Bill 41 came into force on June 20, 2015
Since Bill 41 became law on June 20, 2015, pharmacists have been authorized to perform new professional activities that enable them to better respond to the needs of their patients and supervise the effectiveness of medication therapy. These activities are the following:
- Renew a physician’s prescription
- Prescribe last tests
- Prescribe medication when no diagnosis is required
- Prescribe medications for certain minor conditions
- Adjust a physician’s prescription
- Substitute a medication for another in the case of disruption in the supply
- Administer a medication to demonstrate proper usage
- Media release - Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux du Québec - Rôle élargi des pharmaciens afin de bonifier l’accessibilité aux soins et de favoriser un meilleur usage des médicaments (in french)
- Media release - Ordre des pharmaciens du Québec - Projet de loi 31 permettant la vaccination par les pharmaciens : une bonne nouvelle pour l'accès (in french)
- Photo credit : Ordre des pharmaciens du Québec