Sask. pilot program training pharmacists to prescribe medications

A new pilot program aims to give Saskatchewan pharmacists more prescribing power.

The province is giving $137,000 to the University of Saskatchewan’s college of pharmacy and nutrition for the pilot, called the advanced pharmacy prescribing training program.

The training will give pharmacists the ability to prescribe and manage medication for a variety of chronic conditions, including asthma, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), obesity, heart failure and hypertension.

The goal is to have 20 pharmacists start the training in January 2025 and be done by spring 2025.

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Saskatchewan has lost so many of its family doctors in the last year that 200,000 “orphaned” patients are relying on walk-in clinics to get medical attention. Legends Medical Clinic in Warman is in the middle of the crisis, trying to meet the needs of all who seek their walk-in services but patients often wait for hours to see a doctor.

Minister of Advanced Education Gordon Wyant said on Wednesday at the announcement that having pharmacists able to make these prescriptions will not only benefit the people accessing them, but also alleviate pressures on family doctors.

“They can currently prescribe for a number of minor ailments, but this is going to really fulfil the opportunity for pharmacists to prescribe their full scope,” said Wyant.

“Usually pharmacists are the first point of contact for a lot of people, especially in rural Saskatchewan.”

The government said the pilot will help Saskatchewan align with other provinces like Alberta and Nova Scotia, where there are similar services.

Danielle Larocque is standing with microphones in the picture
Danielle Larocque is the associate director of continuing pharmacy education for the U of S and MedSask. She said she hopes rural pharmacies get involved in the program. (Liam O’Connor/CBC)

Danielle Larocque, associate director of continuing pharmacy education for both the U of S and Med Sask, said the course is mostly online work, with some in-person and hands-on training.

She said the program is for practicing pharmacists and not graduate students at the university, and there are about 20 pharmacists taking the course.

“The goal [is to have] them completed and ready to be doing this advanced prescribing by spring next year,” said Larocque.

As for the potential additional workload pharmacists could face with more prescribing responsibilities, Larocque said she’s confident they’ll be able to take it on.

“I think it’ll be a different setting than what we currently see in the dispensary. They’ll be stepping away these pharmacists, from that dispensing role, and they’ll be focusing on this. So pharmacy and health care in Saskatchewan will look different.”

So far it has not been decided who will be taking the course or where in Saskatchewan the participants will be from. Larocque said one factor will be whether the pharmacy they work at will facilitate the new kind of practice that would come with this training.

“We are hoping that rural pharmacies, you know, smaller towns across Saskatchewan really embrace this.”

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