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What does a pharmacist do?

Pharmacist Services in the Community

Pharmacists are taking on expanded roles and responsibilities in our health care system. The Pharmacist’s role has expanded from behind the counter at the community to many other roles such as at hospitals, medical clinics, government, and at drug plan administrators and consultants.

In the community, pharmacists across Canada are increasingly being recognized as the medication management experts and are provided authority to expand their public service. This article will examine the most common services offered across Canada by pharmacists.

Treating Minor Ailments/Conditions

A minor ailment is a less serious medical condition that does not require lab or blood tests. Examples include cold sores, mild eczema, oral thrush, heartburn, hay fever, skin rash, fungal skin infections and yeast infections. Trained pharmacists in most jurisdictions with the exception of Ontario, British Colombia and the Territories (for now) are able to assess patients and prescribe a prescription level medication when necessary rather than recommending a milder over- the-counter treatment for certain less serious conditions. This helps improve access to care and helps prevent increases in wait times in physician’s offices and emergency rooms. It also reduces absenteeism from work and can potentially improve productivity.

Renewing and Extending Prescriptions

Your family is travelling for vacation tomorrow and you realize your forgot to get new prescriptions to refill your child’s asthma inhalers. Thoughts of a long wait at the local walk-in clinic the night before travelling can make someone cringe. Fortunately, pharmacists in all provinces (except the territories) are able to provide either a renewal or extension on a patient’s prescription after a clinical assessment. This ensures that patients have access to therapy and medications and can stay on them as prescribed.

Adapting Prescriptions

There are many instances where a patient can’t swallow their prescribed capsules and need a
liquid instead. There are also times that a dosage needs to be adjusted based on the patient’s weight, changing condition or tolerance to a medication. Pharmacists in most provinces may adapt prescriptions based upon the circumstances of the particular patient by adjusting the dose, dosage form, regimen, or route of administration to address the patient’s unique needs and circumstances. The pharmacist is required to notify the prescriber of any significant change that they initiate.

Injection Authority

Getting an injection, whether for a medication, vaccination or for a routine test can be tricky and require an appointment with long wait times. Pharmacists in different provinces have varying authority to provide injections so patients can access service. In Ontario, pharmacists who complete a training program can provide a variety of vaccines including the flu shot and several travel vaccines. This will help decrease back and forth trips from the doctors office and will save patients time and be more cost effective for our healthcare system.

Other Services

There are many services offered by pharmacists in community pharmacies across Canada. Aside from providing medications to patients, pharmacists are increasing their role in the treatment of patients by providing medication reviews and many other services. Talk to your pharmacist about which serviced they offer. Below is a chart examining pharmacist authority across Canada. Some provinces require additional training for the pharmacist before they offer the services outlined below.

Medication Review
a Prescription
Renew Prescriptions
Prescribing in
an Emergency/minor ailments

(oral contraceptives)



College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. Pharmacists Renewing/Adapting Prescriptions. www.cpso.on.ca; 2016.
Canadian Pharmacists Association- Pharmacy in Canada. www.pharmacists.ca; 2016
New Brunswick Pharmacists Association – Minor Ailments Assessments. www.nbpharma.ca; 2016
National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities. Pharmacists’ Scope of Practice in Canadian Jurisdictions www.napra.ca; 2016


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This article was provided by the clinical pharmacy at Rx Infinity. Rx Infinity provides optimal and sustainable patient management solutions through customized programs, innovative technology and added value services that improve the overall patient experience; while helping payers and plan sponsors achieve sustainability in the management of drug plans expenditures.

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.

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