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A greater role for pharmacists to reduce health care wait times: The reform does not go far enough

Montreal, April 30, 2015 – While Quebec’s public health care system struggles to respond adequately to the needs of patients, and the costs of the system keep rising rapidly, the reform aiming to increase the role of pharmacists in the provision of front-line health care services should go further, along the lines of what has been put in place successfully in the other provinces, according to an MEI study published today.

Under the recently adopted Bill 28, the government plans to remunerate just three of the seven new pharmaceutical consultations that it has authorized, in theory, since 2011. These new pharmaceutical services cover among other things the renewal or adjustment of a prescription, the substitution of a drug in case of shortage, and the prescription of drugs for certain minor ailments. These services are still not offered, due to the stalled negotiations between the different parties regarding their remuneration.

According to economist Yanick Labrie, the author of the study, regardless of the outcome of the ongoing negotiations, the reform is insufficient and could fail to achieve its main goal of improving patients’ access to front-line care.

“It’s clear that the government’s decision not to remunerate some of the newly authorized professional services and to forbid pharmacists from charging a fee for these services runs the risk of discouraging pharmacists from providing them. Other provinces and countries have gone much further and have been much more ambitious in turning to pharmacists for help within their health care systems, with positive results.”

The study reports that in the vast majority of other Canadian provinces, pharmacists are not only authorized to prescribe drugs for the treatment of minor conditions and to renew prescriptions, but can also offer medication review and management services and set up vaccination clinics, which are covered by the public plan. In Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, for example, where such services have already existed for a number of years, studies have found a very high level of satisfaction among the clientele, both in terms of improved health conditions and in terms of the quality of services received from pharmacists.

“Among health professionals, pharmacists are the most accessible to the population. The scientific literature leaves little doubt about the benefits of expanding their role within the health care system. Entrusting pharmacists with additional responsibilities is likely to greatly improve patient access to care and lead to savings as well, which the public system desperately needs,” concludes Yanick Labrie.

The Economic Note entitled “Improving Access to Care by Expanding the Role of Pharmacists” was prepared by Yanick Labrie, economist at the MEI. This publication is available on our website.

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The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit research and educational organization. Through its studies and its conferences, the MEI stimulates debate on public policies in Quebec and across Canada by proposing wealth-creating reforms based on market mechanisms.

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Interview requests: Mariam Diaby, Communications Director, Montreal Economic Institute / Tel.: 514-273-0969 ext. 2231 / Cell.: 514-668-3063 / Email: mdiaby@iedm.org

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