Nfld. & Labrador

30-day cap on prescriptions eases as pharmacy inventories return to normal

The board regulating Newfoundland and Labrador's pharmacists is easing up on a 30-day cap on prescriptions, as inventories return to pre-pandemic levels. 

Some prescription restrictions, though, will still apply

The Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Board is easing its 30-day prescription recommendation over the next two weeks. (Pills)

The board regulating Newfoundland and Labrador's pharmacists is easing up on a 30-day cap on prescriptions, after a nationwide effort to protect supplies has brought inventories back to pre-pandemic levels. 

The easing will happen over the next two weeks, on the condition that pharmacists have the supply they need on hand to provide patients with a longer prescription.

"We're really putting it in the hands of the pharmacists," said Margot Priddle, the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Board's registrar and CEO. 

"Pharmacists will manage their inventory and manage the amount of medication dispensed to their patients so that their patients have access to their medications."

On March 19 NLPB issued the recommendation that a 30-day supply of medication was necessary in order to protect public health, which affected patients accustomed to getting two or three months of medication at once. 

"It was a worldwide demand for medications and that was due in part to stockpiling," said Priddle.

"I call that the toilet tissue effect, where a lot of people were presenting to pharmacies to get their medications."

Production had slowed or stopped

Priddle pointed out that much of the world's medications are manufactured in China and India.

"Those were two very hard hit countries earlier on in the pandemic that we're dealing with," said Priddle. "Manufacturing of medications actually slowed and in some cases stopped."

The NLPB's Margot Priddle said other provinces, including Quebec, Ontario and Alberta, still have 30-day supply restrictions in place. (Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Board)

Priddle, while noting the supply has returned to pre-COVID-19 levels, said what happened earlier this year wasn't normal.

"I have never seen anything like this in the last 30 years for sure. It is truly unprecedented," she said.

The NLPB also issued tips for patients as its recommendation is eased, including:

  • Advising your pharmacy team if you are sick and need pickup or delivery option.
  • Do not request a medication refill until its due.
  • Some specific drugs may still experience shortages. Pharmacy professionals may still dispense a limited amount.
  • Be understanding and have patience with your pharmacy team.
We do recognize that there are people in our province that are paying extra … and probably can't afford to pay the extra.- Margot Priddle

The easing back on the 30-day supply will be good news for people who usually get 60- or 90-day prescriptions, meaning they will also now save on dispensing fees charged by pharmacies.

"The [NLPB] isn't insensitive to this at all and we do recognize that there are people in our province that are paying extra … and probably can't afford to pay the extra," Priddle said.

Supplies will be monitored

Priddle said pharmacists are thanking consumers for their patience during the last few months. 

"We would still ask them to be kind to the pharmacists as they're presenting for for their medications," she said. "They're working with you as best they can to deal with all the situations that are coming at them."

The board said while the 30-day supply recommendation is diminishing, it will continue to closely monitor drug supplies and the overall healthcare environment associated with COVID-19. 

The board will respond accordingly should access to medications become compromised. 

"I'm hopeful that that we will not have to put in such harsh measures again but we'll do what we need to do to protect the supply," said Priddle.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

with files from Mike Moore and Jeremy Eaton