OCTOBER 2020 – The latest edition of the Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy’s COVID-19 chart shows that pharmacy has made important strides at the government policy level, particularly in the areas of controlled substances and personal protective equipment (PPE).
CFP first pulled together a chart in July to summarize how the pandemic has prompted numerous changes in policies and regulations affecting pharmacy practice. The information is fact-checked and updated by provincial pharmacy associations.
Controlled substances – Exemptions enabled under Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), originally set to expire on September 30, 2020, have been extended until September 30, 2021. This bodes well for pharmacy advocacy associations’ efforts to make these exemptions permanent. The exemptions give pharmacists the authority to accept verbal orders, transfer prescriptions, refill prescriptions if more than a year has elapsed since the date it was written, renew and adapt prescriptions (including partial fills and deprescribing).
Personal protective equipment – In July, pharmacists in virtually all provinces had to source and pay for their own PPE. Only pharmacists in New Brunswick and P.E.I. could access government emergency supplied, but only as a last resort. By October, five out of 10 provinces had gained access to government supplies of PPE, at no cost, under certain conditions. For example, access to government-supplied PPE in Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland Labrador is is tied to influenza vaccination programs. In Alberta, pharmacists have to source their own PPE; however, the service fee for COVID-19 testing of asymptomatic patients includes $2 to help offset the cost of PPE. As well, Alberta increased its fee for all pharmacist-administered vaccinations and Quebec increased its fee to pharmacies for flu vaccinations to help offset the cost of PPE.
COVID-19 testing – In September, Ontario implemented a pharmacy-based COVID-19 testing program for asymptomatic residents. Pharmacists assess an asymptomatic person who wishes to be tested, a service that is billed at $20, and if the person meets eligibility criteria (i.e., is asymptomatic, which includes no known exposure to COVID-19), the pharmacist collects a specimen by nasal or throat swab, a service that is billed at $22. Ontario has sub-contracted laboratories in the U.S. to help process the test results in order to reduce the risk of backlogs in Ontario’s labs.
Ontario’s testing program and reimbursement model are similar to what was put in place in Alberta in late June. Alberta has since put its pharmacy-based testing on hold in order to prioritize testing for symptomatic and high-risk asymptomatic people and to eliminate backlog in the province’s laboratories, which had resulted in wait times of seven to nine days. Click here to read more about Alberta’s testing program.