Ontario Pharmacists' Association announces top policy priorities

Pharmacists hope to play larger role in patients' circle of care by 2015

TORONTO, Sept. 15, 2011 /CNW/ - With Ontarians set to go to the polls on October 6, the Ontario Pharmacists' Association (OPA), the professional association that represents the views and interests of more than 12,500 pharmacists, has announced its policy priorities for the 2011 provincial election and beyond.

Included in OPA's Vision for Pharmacists' Role in Health Care 2011-15, available at http://www.opatoday.com/files/public/documents/OPA_Vision2011-15.pdf, are nine key priorities including an expanded scope of practice for all pharmacists.

By 2015, it is hoped that Ontario's highly-educated community pharmacists will be better utilized and fairly compensated for providing essential health care services, especially for seniors and those suffering from chronic illnesses.

"Better access to health care services is a top concern for voters during this election, and the Ontario Pharmacists' Association will continue to advocate strongly for a greater scope of practice for pharmacists," said Darryl Moore, Chair of the Ontario Pharmacists Association. "Ontarians need and expect community pharmacists to provide more patient care services, just as pharmacists do in other jurisdictions around the world. Routine immunizations and the authority to assess and treat minor ailments are just two examples of services that OPA hopes pharmacists are able to provide in the near future."

Pharmacists are medication experts with in-depth knowledge about hundreds of prescription and non-prescription drugs. Many also undertake additional training to become certified as diabetes or asthma educators, or specialize in areas such as geriatrics or menopause.

According to a March 2009 Ipsos-Reid survey, 86 per cent of Ontarians said they would rely on their pharmacist to provide medication for minor ailments, and 71 per cent said they believed pharmacists could do more to help them manage their health.

"We know it can be done," said Dennis Darby, Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario Pharmacists' Association. "Many other jurisdictions have authorized pharmacists to provide routine injections of immunizations and vaccines, with great success and improved uptake by patients. Other provinces and countries have authorized pharmacists to prescribe drugs for minor ailments, like pink eye or poison ivy."

The Association emphasizes that by expanding Ontario pharmacists' scope of practice, pharmacists can improve patient care; take pressure off family physicians, emergency rooms and walk-in clinics; reduce wait times and hospitals stays; and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of Ontario's health care system.

A more significant monitoring system
Another key priority is to create a comprehensive plan aimed at reducing the misuse and abuse of prescription narcotics - one of the most serious public health and safety issues in Ontario.

"The current government made a good first move by creating the prescription drug database, which will allow the province to monitor prescriptions; however we are also calling for increased patient education, improved addictions treatment, and coordinated efforts with law enforcement to ensure the safety and security of pharmacists and all of the patients they serve," Darby said.

To help pharmacists better fulfill their medication management role  and to reduce growing public anxiety about the likelihood of drug shortages, OPA is also recommending the creation of a drug supply monitoring system comparable to that of the United States' Food and Drug Administration.  Drug shortages faced by pharmacists in the past year posed significant problems for pharmacists, patients and prescribers. A drug monitoring system would ensure pharmacists are able to provide the most appropriate medication needed to patients at the correct dosage.

About Ontario Pharmacists' Association
The Ontario Pharmacists' Association is the professional association that represents the views and interests of more than 12,500 pharmacists and pharmacists-in-training across the province. The Association works to inspire excellence in the profession and practice of pharmacy, and to promote wellness for patients. For more information, visit www.opatoday.com.

SOURCE Ontario Pharmacists' Association

For further information:

To arrange interviews or for more information, please contact:

Deborah McNorgan
Ontario Pharmacists' Association
416.441.0788, ext. 4266
dmcnorgan@opatoday.com

Michelle MacLeod
Hill & Knowlton
416.413.4744
michelle.macleod@hillandknowlton.ca

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Ontario Pharmacists' Association

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