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New rules will let Yukon pharmacists deliver vaccines

Pharmacists in Yukon will soon be able to deliver flu shots and other vaccines. That's one of many changes made as the territory's Pharmacists Act is replaced. Regulating pharmacists under the Health Professions Act will also mean new requirements for pharmacists to maintain a licence.

Yukon Pharmacists Association welcomes changes, which are first update since 1950s

Yukon Pharmacists Association president Josianne Gauthier hopes the changes will lead more Yukoners to get a flu shot or other vaccinations. The association represents about 30 pharmacists across the territory and is glad to see rules changed. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Pharmacists in Yukon will soon be able to administer flu shots and other vaccines. It's one of many changes happening as the territory's Pharmacists Act is being replaced — the first update since 1955. 

The Yukon Pharmacists Association is happy to see the new regulations, which will now place pharmacists under the umbrella of the Health Professions Act.

Josianne Gauthier, the association's president, said the new measures mean Yukon is "catching up with the rest of Canada," and expects there will be benefits to public health that will alleviate strain on the hospital system.  

"I think this is good news for the public. Pharmacists are healthcare professionals who are accessible. Enabling pharmacists to deliver vaccines will certainly increase vaccinations in the public," she said. 

The new rules will allow students and intern to fulfill certain roles within pharmacies. The Yukon Pharmacists Association says this will help people enter the profession. (Shutterstock)

Here are a few changes included in the update. 

Mandatory testing and education

Starting in 2021, pharmacists in Yukon will need to pass a test in addition to having their degree. This test will be specific to Yukon laws and written only once to obtain a license. 

Nancy Meagher, director of professional licensing and regulatory affairs with the Department of Community Services, is also the territory's registrar of pharmacists. She said pharmacists will have to renew their licence every year. One new requirement will be proving they have spent at least 15 hours on continuing education.

That could include university-level courses, personal reading or listening to podcasts, Meagher said.

Double certification

Pharmacists will now be required to maintain their licence in two Canadian jurisdictions even if they don't travel outside Yukon. 

Gauthier says this has been a common practice in Yukon for years because the territory doesn't have its own college of pharmacists.

But it's a good "safety measure" to have it required by law, she said.

New space for students 

The updated act introduces new roles for students and interns. 

Students will have more limited responsibilities and will require the direct supervision of a pharmacist, while provisional workers will be allowed to dispense medicine and have more freedom without being certified as full pharmacists.  

Gauthier said this will help new pharmacists ease into the profession and allow them to remain in Yukon throughout their training and apprenticeships. 

Adapting prescriptions

The updated Pharmacists Act will allow pharmacists to substitute a medication for another with a "similar therapeutic effect," said Gauthier. A pharmacist, for instance, could replace one type of asthma inhaler for another. 

She said pharmacists might do this if it makes it easier for the patient to take the drug, or to ensure the medication is covered by the patient's insurance.

Pharmacists will also be able to substitute drugs for generic equivalents with the same medical ingredients and renew prescriptions.

Gauthier said renewal has been an issue in Yukon as some people travel far for prescriptions and re-visit doctors to obtain refills. The updated act will allow pharmacists to renew a prescription only once.

"It will certainly save some time and some costs for the patient," she said. "I am sure this will reduce the number of unnecessary visits to the emergency department."

More review happening now

The Yukon government is now developing regulations under the Yukon Pharmacy and Drug Act, which was written in 2015. Meagher said the Yukon government will review regulations covering retail licences, locations and other questions regarding the pharmacies themselves — not the pharmacists who work within.

This would include codes of ethics, regulation of rural dispensaries, tele-pharmacies and more. 

Those regulations are set to be complete in 2020. 

Clarifications

  • This story has been updated to clarify that under the revised Pharmacists Act, pharmacists will be able to inject patients with certain vaccines, and substitute a medication for another with a similar therapeutic effect.
    May 30, 2019 8:24 AM CT

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story stated that right now, pharmacists may not substitute a brand-name drug for its generic alternative. This is incorrect. Pharmacists can indeed swap brand-name for generic drugs under the existing rules.
    May 30, 2019 8:21 AM CT

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