Pharmacists at six New Brunswick locations will soon be able to help manage and prescribe for certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes and asthma, as part of a one-year pilot aimed at improving access to primary care.
Health Minister Bruce Fitch announced the Pharmacist Care Clinics in Fredericton Wednesday, saying he’s excited about the potential of the further expanded role of pharmacists.
It’s no secret that access to primary care has been “a challenge,” he said.
“It’s our hope that this project will give us a new way to deliver primary care here in the province.”
Under the pilot, pharmacists at the participating locations will offer chronic disease management for patients who have previously been diagnosed with diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and cardio-vascular disease by a doctor or nurse practitioner, said Department of Health spokesperson Clarissa Andersen.
Those with asthma must be at least one year old, while those with diabetes must be 18 or older, not have gestational diabetes, and not be on insulin pump therapy, she said.
The pharmacists will also offer point-of-care testing and prescribing for patients aged three and older with symptoms consistent with Group A streptococcal (GAS) pharyngitis, Andersen said.
Begins Aug. 1
The project will launch Aug. 1 at the Fredericton Shoppers Drug Mart on Prospect Street and in Riverview at the Jean Coutu on Coverdale Road.
Four other locations are expected to open by Sept. 18:
- Fredericton — Lawtons Drugs on Brookside Drive.
- Paquetville — Marie-Claude Cyr Inc. Familiprix on Des Fondateurs Street.
- Moncton — The Medicine Shoppe on Main Street.
- Hampton — Hampton Pharmasave on Main Street.
“We know from talking to patients at our counter every day that this pilot will be life-changing for so many people,” said Anne Marie Picone, interim executive director of the New Brunswick Pharmacists’ Association.
“Pharmacists are highly trained, highly qualified health-care professionals accessible right in your communities. And we’re pleased pharmacists will be able to offer even more of the services they’re already trained to provide.”
Patients with a valid Medicare card, who don’t live in a nursing home or a correctional facility, are eligible to book an appointment, according to the Department of Health.
The participating pharmacies will cover the cost of assessing and prescribing during the pilot, but patients will still have to pay for any prescribed medications.
Impact to be studied
At the end of the project, the Department of Health will evaluate its impact and effectiveness through a study conducted by the New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training, which operates arms-length from government, said research scientist Chris Folkins
The study will look at patient health and health-system outcomes, as well as the experience of the patients and the pharmacists, he said.
“Our study … will provide evidence to help policymakers make informed decisions surrounding scope of practice and funding for pharmacy services, with the goal of achieving improved health [outcomes] and supporting sustainable, accessible health care,” Folkins said.
The New Brunswick Pharmacists’ Association is confident the pilot will lead to “a new way of doing health care in New Brunswick,” according to Picone.
She pointed to a similar pilot Nova Scotia launched at 12 pharmacies in February. Within the first two months, the clinics provided more than 9,000 services to more than 5,000 patients, “diverting many of them from the overcrowded, overburdened health-care system,” said Picone.
It was so successful that Nova Scotia added 14 more sites in May, she said.
“So we have a very strong indication … that this pilot should work very well here in New Brunswick as well and we’re confident that this pilot will support the conclusion that more pharmacies should be offering these services.”
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