Yukon Pharmacists' Association wants territory to catch up to Canadian provinces

The association representing pharmacists in Yukon says the profession is being undervalued by territorial law. The Yukon Pharmacists Association wants the ability to renew prescriptions, administer vaccines, substitute medications and more.

Pharmacists association says doctors' time being tied up with unnecessary requests

"There's so much more that pharmacists can do for their patients," says Josianne Gauthier, president of the Yukon Pharmacists Association. She says Yukon's rules are antiquated compared to the rest of Canada. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

The Yukon Pharmacists' Association is using the upcoming election to highlight the lack of permissions given to pharmacists in the territory, saying that it's lagging behind Canada's provinces.

The association has published an open letter hoping to attract the attention of election candidates.It calls for the territory to show more trust in pharmacists, allowing them to do work that, at the moment, is being done by doctors. 

"There's so much more the pharmacists can do for their patients," says Josianne Gauthier, the association's president. "In all other Canadian jurisdictions, pharmacists work with an expanded scope."

Pharmacists could renew prescriptions, administer vaccines

The letter asks that Yukon politicians consider changing legislation to give pharmacists new powers, including permission to renew or extend prescription refills, permission to substitute or replace one medication for another with the same effect, permission to administer vaccines, and permission to dispense medication in a different form than prescribed. 

"These are all things pharmacists can do in the rest of the country," says Gauthier, adding that the changes would save both patients and doctors time, avoiding tying up the territory's physicians with low-level requests. 

"We know that medication treatments are increasingly complex. Having more pharmacists involved in patient care can reduce unnecessary emergency visits, prevent hospitalisation, prevent medication errors. Having more pharmacist involvement will improve our healthcare system efficiency." 

Gauthier says one example is birth control, for which a prescription refill requires a doctor's approval. 

"There's a lot of time wasted on unnecessary phone calls," she says. "Really, you shouldn't have to go to the hospital to get a prescription refill."

A chart from the Canadian Pharmacists' Association shows pharmacists' responsibilities according to province and territory. Yukon, the NWT and Nunavut have by far the most restrictions. (Canadian Pharmacists Association)

Consultations two years ago

Gauthier says the association has already met with the territorial government to discuss these ideas. However, she says a process of consultation launched in 2014 hasn't yet produced any results. 

"We're still waiting for the draft of the recommendations," she says.

Gauthier says there has been no official response from the territorial government or any territorial party to the association's letter. 

"We will share their response with our membership," she says. "We're really hoping when the new government is formed, the new regulations will be implemented as soon as possible."

She says the core issue is one of trust.

"It is our expertise. Doctors are trained in many many disciplines but the pharmacists are the medication experts," she says. 

Territories lagging behind

The Canadian Pharmacists' Association tracks the responsibilities which pharmacists are allowed across Canada

The most permissive province is Alberta, while the N.W.T., Nunavut and Yukon have far more restrictions than most provinces.