Gateway Gazette

Pharmacists to Assess Albertans for COVID-19, Manage Drug Supply

Pharmacists have been working hard to help Albertans assess and screen for COVID-19. A new billing code has been created for this service.

This new pharmacy service provides Albertans with another way to access information and advice about COVID-19.

“We need to maximize the capabilities of our health professionals at this time. Pharmacists have knowledge and experience in infectious diseases such as influenza and in helping Albertans with their questions and concerns. This measure acknowledges pharmacists’ role in the health system and in supporting patients.”Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health

The service is initially limited to screening and the provision of information about COVID-19. Alberta Health and the Alberta Pharmacists’ Association will remain in close collaboration on how to expand this role, should this be needed. This could include direct referral for COVID-19 testing and supporting Health Link 811 in addressing Albertans’ information needs.

“We commend the quick action and responsiveness of Alberta Health to establish a compensation structure to support the care that Alberta’s community pharmacists are providing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pharmacists play an essential role in the management, assessment, and screening of patient health indicators and helping patients understand their COVID-19 risk is an important support for Albertans.”Margaret Wing, CEO, Alberta Pharmacists’ Association

In addition, to ensure Albertans have continued access to essential medications and help pharmacists manage drug supplies, the Alberta government is recommending that pharmacies have the discretion to provide a maximum 30-day supply of prescription drugs.

“Albertans rely on their pharmacy teams for access to medications to manage their health needs. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in drug shortages due to global demand. To ensure Albertans can access the medications they need, the Alberta College of Pharmacy supports measures that will reduce the likelihood of drug shortages by limiting prescription quantities to 30 days. This will assist in stabilizing our drug supply.”Greg Eberhart, Registrar, Alberta College of Pharmacy

Because some Albertans will need to refill their prescriptions more often than usual, they should speak with their pharmacist about when it is appropriate to do so. 

To assist with the added cost, those with Alberta government-sponsored Coverage for Seniors and Non-Group coverage programs will pay a lower co-payment of up to $8 per prescription for a 30-day supply. The current co-payment is up to $25 per prescription. Albertans with other coverage should consult with their benefits provider.

“The changes announced today to limit prescription quantities to 30 days will help to ensure that Alberta pharmacists have the means to effectively manage the supply of medications to the benefit of all their patients. Pharmacists are working tirelessly to ensure that patients continue to have access to prescription medications and this change should help to ease that pressure.”Margaret Wing, CEO, Alberta Pharmacists’ Association

Other provinces, including Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, have either taken action or are in the process of implementing measures to protect drug supply chain stability.

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