On April 4, the provincial government posted the Ontario College of Pharmacists’ draft regulations which propose expanding pharmacists’ scope of practice to include the assessment and prescribing of select minor ailments. The proposed regulations have a public consultation window of ten days before proceeding to cabinet for final approval. The University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy welcomes this proposal, as it increases access to care for Ontarians.
“Pharmacist-led minor ailment services leverage the clinical capabilities of pharmacists and provide patients with another pathway to receive care from highly accessible and trained providers, as ninety-five per cent of Ontarians live within five kilometers of pharmacy services,” says Andrea Edginton, Hallman Director.
Currently, patients with a minor ailment must visit their primary care provider, walk-in clinic, or local hospital. Often, this can be time-consuming and expensive. Pharmacists have been an invaluable resource to patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic; this scope expansion represents just one more way that they can continue to provide efficient, accessible care, particularly outside the traditional nine-to-five business hours of many medical offices.
The draft regulations identify twelve minor ailments pharmacists will be able to assess and prescribe for. The list was informed by research and consultation conducted by the Ontario College of Pharmacists’ Minor Ailments Advisory Group, which was composed of a diverse group of patients and experts in medicine, public health, health systems research, and community pharmacy. Professor Nardine Nakhla served as a member of this group and has been a dedicated advocate for this scope expansion.
The list includes:
- Urinary tract infections (uncomplicated)
- Dermatitis (atopic, eczema, allergic and contact)
- Insect bites and urticaria (hives) including tick bites
- Conjunctivitis (bacterial, allergic and viral)
- Allergic rhinitis
- Candidal stomatitis (oral thrush)
- Herpes labialis (cold sores)
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Musculoskeletal sprains and strains
Prescribing medications for minor ailments is already part of the services pharmacists provide in eight other provinces across Canada. In addition to alleviating pressure on primary care offices, walk-in-clinics and hospital emergency rooms, research shows that this scope expansion may save the province $26-$42 million annually.
Waterloo Pharmacy has also partnered with the Ontario Pharmacists Association to offer Prescribing for Minor Ailments – The Fundamentals, an online continuing education course for pharmacists in all practice settings on this topic.
“We are excited for our students, alumni and other pharmacists throughout the province to be able to serve Ontarians in this way,” Edginton says. “We are also grateful for the focused efforts of our faculty, of the Ontario Pharmacists Association and of the Ontario College of Pharmacists.”