Pharmacists: Doing more. For you.

Mar 22, 2016

By Barret Procyshyn

It is March; which means its Pharmacist Awareness Month. If you Tweet, its #PAM2016. Also with an election called in Manitoba for April, it is a chance to talk about Health Care. At a time when extra funding is lacking, physicians' workloads are maxed out and drug manufacturers keep increasing prices; along with an aging population, health care is in a tough spot. Rather than just dish out more money without planning for the future, we need to start paying more attention to health promotion. We also need to look at the resources we currently have and see if we can maximize them. This concept includes letting health care professionals practise to their full scope, or to their fullest potential. Just like we let nurses now prescribe as nurse practitioners, and use dieticians as diabetes experts, pharmacists can play a bigger role. A recent survey released by Abacus data says 93% of Manitobans believe pharmacists play an essential and important role in the healthcare system.

Right now, in almost every town in Manitoba, pharmacists in hospitals and community pharmacies have the training and regulatory authority to provide health care services well beyond traditional drug dispensing or what most refer to as "giving out prescriptions". Pharmacists can, for example, provide extensive patient counselling, prescribe for self-limiting conditions such as mild eczema or acne, adapt prescriptions when necessary, and administer injections. Most pharmacists, including your Dauphin Clinic Pharmacists have tried to embrace this expanded role. For example, we have given over 600 pneumonia and influenza vaccinations this fall and winter. While prescribing is new, we have pharmacists that can currently prescribe prescription medication to help you quit smoking.

As Manitoba's population ages and physician workloads increase, pharmacists provide a viable alternative to physicians in the diagnosis and treatment for many minor ailments or self-limiting conditions. A self-limiting condition in Manitoba can be explained with examples like smoking cessation, dermatitis, fungal infections, hemorrhoids, vomiting in pregnancy, in addition to eczema and acne which were mentioned above. In some provinces, assessments and prescribing by a pharmacist even cover urinary tract infections. Are Pharmacists trying to take over what doctors do? No. We are trying to help out with the small minor things, so when a complex health situation arises you have a doctor available to help.

Pharmacists are now also able to expand their training to be able to order lab testing and prescribe medical devices like diabetes and asthma aids. Another important service pharmacists can offer are medication reviews. CBC's The Current recently featured a story on how the Canadian senior population is being over-medicated, often with potentially dangerous drugs. The report says 2/3 of seniors are currently taking more than five prescription drugs. A medication review goes over your current medication and makes sure it's the right medication for you at the right dose at the right times and it is not interfering with other medications or your daily functioning.

Currently in almost every other province, except Manitoba these services are covered by provincial health coverage. Just like when you go into a walk in clinic or emergency room and do not pay, they are covered. However; in Manitoba, we do not have this necessity. You have to pay out of pocket for these services. Some refer to it as two tiered health care!

Public funding for pharmacy services will reduce waiting times in clinics and provide an accessible health care alternative for Manitobans, especially for those living in rural areas where accessing physicians after hours or during weekends can be challenging. Funded pharmacy services will reduce medication errors, hospitalizations and make primary health care more accessible for Manitoba families. More Manitobans are taking care of both aging parents and young children. For many, a pharmacist is the first line of health care and often more accessible than doctors who are under increasing pressure given the demands of our aging population. Pharmacy services including medication reviews; assessment and prescribing for minor ailments; smoking cessation services; immunizations; and, prescription adaptation and renewals should be covered.

The Abacus survey findings also show that 76% of Manitobans believe pharmacists should be given more authority to improve health outcomes and 82% of people believe we can reduce healthcare costs. If you want more information on what your pharmacist can do for you visit


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