A local pharmacist is questioning whether government’s decision to expand scope of practice for pharmacists will benefit all Islanders equally.
James Aylward, Minister of Health and Wellness, made the announcement on July 2. He noted the changes were made based on requests from the PEI College of Pharmacists, the governing body of pharmacists in the province.
Changes will see pharmacists and pharmacy technicians able to prescribe and administer an additional six travel vaccines, along with performing three blood tests, and administer patient automated devices.
Della Rix, owner and pharmacist at the Alberton Pharmacy, said it’s nice the government is now providing these extra services, but they will not benefit every pharmacy.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not really going to serve patients in this area any better,” she said.
The vaccinations include Japanese encephalitis, traveller’s diarrhea, and yellow fever.
In order to prescribe and administer these vaccines, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians would need a special certification only offered during the annual meeting of the International Society of Travel Medicine. This year, the meeting is in Washington, DC, but it’s completely booked.
“For the time and money involved, it’s not really economically feasible for us to be able to provide something like that because we have such a small population base up here,” said Ms Rix.
Regarding the blood tests, one is an International Normalized Radio (INR) test, which is used to monitor how well the blood thinner warfarin is working. The second is the A1C test, which is used to diagnose type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and the third is measuring blood glucose.
“The A1C is like a three month average for blood work,” explained Ms Rix. “It gives them a kind of estimate for how their blood sugar has been running for the last three months. It’s to go along with their blood glucose testing. The blood glucose testing, they can do three, four, five times a day, depending on how controlled they are, and usually they’re on insulin for that. If they’re having issues, and they say they’re getting along fine, and you don’t see their glucose readings, you can look at the A1C readings and go ‘Yeah, this is eight, or nine,’ they’re not well controlled. You have to look at the more detailed picture to kind of see.”
Along with the vaccines and blood work, pharmacy technicians will be authorized to accept verbal prescription orders. This means if a doctor phones in saying requesting a refill for a patient, the pharmacy technician is able to transcribe that prescription.
Pharmacy technicians always verify who the doctor is before transcribing, but most prescriptions are faxed because it’s easier to trace and verify the information.
Ms Rix said one thing she would like to see happen is government pay for more services so patients don’t have to, like it did with the flu shot. Because the vaccine was free, the pharmacy saw an uptake in those receiving it.
“Coverage for shingles vaccination for seniors, that will be great when it comes into effect because, again, it’s cutting down on healthcare costs,” she said. “When it’s severe, it can cost a lot if they have to go to the hospital, or they’re getting medications to treat it for two or three months.”