Ontario pharmacists can prescribe for 13 common ailments as of Jan. 1

It's not clear whether all pharmacies in Ontario will be ready to go on Jan. 1

By Nicole Ireland

As of Jan. 1 pharmacists in Ontario will be allowed to prescribe treatments for 13 common conditions including pink eye, acid reflux and cold sores. 

The province’s ministry of health issued a reminder of the previously announced move on Wednesday, noting the service will be free with a health card. 

Unlike several other provinces, pharmacists in Ontario have not previously been authorized to prescribe medications, except for the COVID-19 antiviral Paxlovid.

“It’s not uncharted territory,” said Danielle Paes, chief pharmacist officer for the Canadian Pharmacists Association. 

“In some of these provinces … they’ve been prescribing for well over a decade,” she said. “In many respects we’re playing a little bit of catch-up in Ontario.”

Ontario pharmacists will also be allowed to assess patients and prescribe medication as needed for skin irritation, menstrual cramps, hemorrhoids, impetigo, insect bites, hives, hay fever and sprains. They will also be able to treat uncomplicated urinary tract infections and prescribe antibiotics after tick bites to prevent Lyme disease.

Shoppers Drug Mart, Rexall Pharmacy Group and McKesson Canada, which owns Guardian, I.D.A., Remedy’sRx and The Medicine Shoppe pharmacies, said on Wednesday that their pharmacists will participate.

But it’s not clear whether all pharmacies in Ontario will be ready to go on Jan. 1.

“Having the legislated authority to prescribe for minor ailments does not mean all pharmacists must offer or provide this service,” an information page on the Ontario College of Pharmacists website says. 

“Patients are encouraged to speak to their pharmacist to find out what health-care services they offer and whether they are right for their needs,” the page says.

Pharmacy prescribing will help reduce wait times for patients needing these services, the ministry of health said in a news release. 

The move also comes as Ontario hospitals and clinics have been hit hard with a surge in viral illnesses. 

Paes said expanding the role of pharmacists to include prescribing authority will help the health-care system as a whole. 

“Anything that you can do to alleviate some of the pressures on our health-care workers would go a long way,” she said.

Banner image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 28, 2022.

Canadian Press health coverage receives support through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. CP is solely responsible for this content.