Calgary

Alberta pharmacists get a new prescription

Alberta will become the only province in the country to allow pharmacists to write prescriptions under new provincial health regulations that come into effect on Sunday.

Alberta will become the only province in the country to allow pharmacists to write prescriptions under new provincial health regulations that come into effect on Sunday.

Pharmacists who have completed a training program will be able to write and refill prescriptions without a doctor's authorization for a wide range of chronic illnesses, such as high blood pressure and asthma. They will also be able to administer vaccines.

Certain addictive drugs, such as narcotics, will still require a doctor's approval for prescription refills.

"If you were our patient here and you were unable to get to your doctor, we can continue the therapy you have been on provided we know you obviously as our patient," said Doug Levy, a Calgary pharmacist.

"We cannot prescribe narcotics or controlled substances, but what we can do is continue the therapy that has already been established by your doctor."

Dr. Robin Cox, a spokesman for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, said he remains cautious about the changes, especially when it comes to pharmacists diagnosing patients.

"If a pharmacist made a major change to a physician's prescription — say they changed the drug completely, changed the length of the prescription, for instance — we would be worried that that would totally alter the intent that the physician had."

The next time Calgary residentMary Jane Stone needs to refill her prescription, she saysshe will do it at her local pharmacy: "That means it's going to be easier for me to get what I require without having to make an appointment at the doctor's."

Despite the changes, some patients still prefer to do it the old way.

"I can't see myself changing the way I do business. I'll visit the doctor, he'll tell me what we need because he'll be doing the diagnosing and I'll go to the pharmacist and get the drugs," said Michael MacLeod.

Some of the new services could involve fees not covered under Alberta's health care plan.

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