Vancouver, BC – The BC provincial government has announced that as of January 2009, pharmacists in BC will be granted new powers to renew prescriptions, alter dosages and dispense substitute drugs without first consulting a patient’s doctor. A new Ipsos Reid poll conducted on behalf of the British Columbia Medical Association (BCMA) shows that the public supports some new powers and opposes other new powers.
Most British Columbians say they support allowing pharmacists to “prescribe in short term emergency situations” (91% support) and “renew prescriptions for patients on long-term stable medications” (85% support) without first consulting a patient’s doctor.
A slight majority of residents also support allowing pharmacists to renew prescriptions for patients with “serious conditions” (58% support, 40% oppose) and “deteriorating conditions” (52% support, 47% oppose) without first consulting a patient’s doctor.
British Columbians are generally opposed to allowing pharmacists to switch or alter prescriptions. Two-thirds say they oppose allowing pharmacists to “switch to a different drug than the one a patient’s doctor prescribed” (65% oppose) and to “alter the frequency or dosage of a prescription” (64% oppose) without first consulting a patient’s doctor.
Most residents also oppose allowing pharmacists to “diagnose a new illness and recommend a treatment plan” without first consulting a patient’s doctor (83% oppose).
The survey also examined whether British Columbians would support or oppose allowing pharmacists in British Columbia to alter or renew prescriptions for some specific conditions without first consulting a patient’s doctor. A majority of residents say they support allowing pharmacists new powers for patients with “arthritis” (73% support) and “high, but stable blood pressure” (62% support). In contrast, a majority of residents say they oppose allowing pharmacists to alter or renew prescriptions for patients with “psychiatric conditions” (70% oppose) and “heart disease” (53% oppose).
It appears that granting additional powers to pharmacists will have only a limited impact on reducing visits to primary care physicians. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of British Columbians say that even if they did go to a pharmacist to renew or change their prescription, they would be still be “very likely” (46%) or “somewhat likely” (27%) to see their family doctor or other doctor shortly afterwards for confirmation. Of these respondents, most would see a doctor within a week (69%) or within a month (91%).
These are the findings of an Ipsos Reid telephone poll conducted between October 7 and 12, 2008. The poll is based on a representative sample of 800 adult British Columbians. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate to within ±3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire adult population of British Columbia been polled. The margin of error will be larger within regions and for other sub-groupings of the survey population. These data were statistically weighted to ensure the sample's regional and age/sex composition reflects that of the actual British Columbia population according to Census data.
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