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Patients stuck with extra fee when pharmacists prescribe

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WATCH ABOVE: While some Canadians pride themselves on the nation's health care, there are loopholes, with patients on the hook for the cost – Jun 5, 2018

Saskatchewan pharmacists have recently been authorized to prescribe for additional minor ailments including urinary tract infections, influenza and contraceptives.

It’s an authority patients are beginning to rely on.

READ MORE: Naloxone made more widely available in Saskatchewan

“We’re seeing that more frequently particularly on weekends and after walk in clinics are closed,” Janine Hiebert, a pharmacy manager at a London Drugs in Saskatoon, said on Tuesday.

While some Canadians pride themselves on the nation’s health care, there are loopholes, with patients on the hook for the cost.

The following prescriptions are subject to a professional fee of at least $18:

  • urinary tract infection;
  • emergency contraceptives;
  • hormonal contraceptives;
  • influenza;
  • onychomycosis (nail fungus);
  • shingles;
  • conjunctivitis (bacterial, viral and allergic;
  • erectile dysfunction; and
  • obesity.

The fee covers the impromptu appointment between patients and pharmacists. If the prescription was coming from a doctor, the patient would not have to pay the fee.

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“After we’ve finished the two pages of assessments then we can continue with the patient and decide what would be the best drug choice for them,” said Hiebert, adding prescriptions from pharmacists include a follow-up phone call days later, and refills if the prescription is a good fit.

READ MORE: Pharmacists in Saskatchewan can now prescribe birth control and UTI medication

The provincial government is in negotiations with the Pharmacy Association of Saskatchewan (PAS). The province will not release details about the negotiations.

“I would argue when you prevent unnecessary visits either to another physician’s office or emergency in particular, you’re really cutting some costs down,” PAS CEO Dawn Martin said.

“We don’t want this to become a barrier to people accessing this care because we see this as really important.”

Last year, pharmacies billed the provincial government less than $500,000 in professional fees. The 2018 health care budget is $5.36 billion with no money for pharmacist’s additional prescribing authorities.

The PAS calls it a return on investment, one it hopes the province invests in by fall.

“We’re just happy to be able to provide that service,” Hiebert said.

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