Independent Pharmacist Prescribing in Canada

Michael Law, Tracey Ma, Judith Fisher, Ingrid Sketris
Research Summary: 

While pharmacists are trained in the selection and management of prescription medicines, traditionally their role in prescribing has been limited. In the past 5 years, many provinces have expanded the pharmacy scope of practice. However, there has been no previous systematic investigation and comparison of these policies.

We performed a comprehensive policy review and comparison of pharmacist prescribing policies in Canadian provinces in August 2010. Our review focused on documents, regulations and interviews with officials from the relevant government and professional bodies. We focused on policies that allowed community pharmacists to independently continue, adapt (modify) and initiate prescriptions.

Pharmacists could independently prescribe in 7 of 10 provinces, including continuing existing prescriptions (7 provinces), adapting existing prescriptions (4 provinces) and initiating new prescriptions (3 provinces). However, there was significant heterogeneity between provinces in the rules governing each function.

The legislated ability of pharmacists to independently prescribe in a community setting has substantially increased in Canada over the past 5 years and looks poised to expand further in the near future. Moving forward, these programs must be evaluated and compared on issues such as patient outcomes and safety, professional development, human resources and reimbursement.