The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
Get our free newsletter
Sign Up
BC Politics

Why Can’t Your Pharmacist Prescribe Basic Drugs?

Advocates say the pandemic should have brought an expanded role for pharmacists in the health-care system.

Missy Johnson 27 May 2020 |

Missy Johnson is an intern with The Tyee as a part of the Journalists for Human Rights Emerging Indigenous Reporter program. She is a recent graduate of the Langara College journalism program.

The COVID-19 pandemic could have brought a bigger role for pharmacists that would improve health care for British Columbians, advocates and experts say.

But the opportunity to increase patient safety, cut costs and give doctors more time to treat patients will be missed, they fear.

The British Columbia Pharmacy Association has been calling on the government to let pharmacists play a larger role in the care system for years, saying they’re trained to provide more services.

This is the time to make changes, they say.

“We have always advocated for an increased scope of practice for pharmacists, that has been something that’s been a cornerstone of the association,” says Michael Mui, communications specialist for the BC Pharmacy Association.

Manu Gill, a registered nurse and educator at British Columbia Institute of Technology, agrees that the government should allow pharmacists to provide more services.

“It would be safer for the general population,” she said. “We could free up physicians for more complex cases.”

Steven Morgan, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health, says expanding the role of pharmacists would require action by the government and the College of Pharmacists of BC.

“Government passes legislation that determines some aspects of scope of practice and that legislation is sort of put into effect by way of the self-regulatory authority of the college,” he said.

In Alberta, for example, pharmacists have the ability to prescribe some medications, eliminating the need for a visit to the doctor.

Gill said pharmacists “often have more drug knowledge compared to most general practitioners, so often it would be safer if pharmacists were prescribing.”

Advocates say pharmacists could prescribe medications like antibiotics, birth control pills and blood pressure medication without a doctor’s involvement.

“I don’t know why a pharmacist couldn’t manage that,” Gill added.

“Let’s just use anti-hypertension as an example,” she said. “[Pharmacists] would be the ones responsible for checking blood pressure, checking for cardiovascular symptoms and then deciding which medications to use.” Most pharmacies have a blood pressure machine in their waiting room.

Frank Qi, a community pharmacist for about 20 years, agrees pharmacists’ scope of practice should be re-examined but isn’t sure what changes might be needed. When it comes to prescribing for minor ailments it “depends on the background of the pharmacist’s training,” he told The Tyee.

Qi does hope that pharmacists will soon be allowed to inject more medications so he can better care for his patients.

Pharmacists can now inject some vaccines, but they cannot inject other medications. Because of COVID-19, some people are reluctant to access their doctor for a simple injection.

Morgan said he doesn’t necessarily agree that pharmacists’ scope of practice should be expanded. But changes in their role could improve the health-care system, he said.

More pharmacists should be part of health-care teams, “working within primary health-care teams, working within urgent health-care centres, working within community health centres... ” he said.

“Patients shouldn’t be going to see one particular professional at a time,” he said. “They should be going to centres at which they have access to physicians, nurses, pharmacists, counsellors, social workers, etc., all working together as teams providing the kind of broad complementary services that patients could benefit from, in a one-stop-shop kind of thing.”

Morgan said research over several decades has shown ways pharmacists can be better utilized and how to integrate them into multidisciplinary health-care teams.

The University of British Columbia recently revised its pharmacist program and graduates now receive a doctor of pharmacy degree rather than a bachelor of science degree. The students who graduated in 2019 were the first to finish the new program.

Barbara Gobis, director of UBC’s Pharmacists Clinic, says the changes were linked to the evolution of the province’s health-care system.

“We change in response to societal changes, needs, priorities, and those kinds of things,” she said. “So the fact that the pharmacy curriculum has been evolving and then ultimately took this change in name and what have you is just a demonstration of the fact that the profession of pharmacy is evolving extremely rapidly to meet the changing needs of society.”

Pharmacy services are regulated and largely funded by provincial governments, she says.

“The changes in the profession are changing at different rates of speed depending on which province you’re in,” she said. “But every single province is moving forward with increasing a pharmacist’s scope of practice, increasing payment models to enable pharmacists to provide and have a sustainable job where they focus more on clinical work rather than technical work.”

B.C.’s health ministry didn’t respond to specific questions about changes to the role of pharmacists.

In an emailed statement a spokesperson said the ministry “has not engaged in broad-based consultation to determine which additional regulated health professionals could see expanded prescribing authority.”

Advocates say they’re still looking to the government to implement long-term changes for pharmacists’ roles in the province.

Morgan acknowledges making changes can be difficult.

“When you consider the financial interests of the corporations involved, every profession is keen to sort of carve out its own particular territory,” he said. “And so that is what makes change difficult.”

But he hopes a global pandemic could bring a conversation about changing the way we provide health care.

“Big crises, like COVID, do create windows of opportunity for change that might not have been possible before,” he said.  [Tyee]

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Do not:

  •  Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully, threaten, name-call or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, downvote, or flag suspect activity
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls and flag violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Stay on topic
  • Connect with each other

The Barometer

Tyee Poll: Are You Preparing for the Next Climate Disaster?

Take this week's poll