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Ontario government expands list of ailments pharmacists can treat

Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones speaks during a press conference at a Shoppers Drug Mart in Etobicoke, Ont., on Wednesday, January 11, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin

TORONTO — Ontario has granted its pharmacists more prescribing powers.

The provincial government announced Sunday it was adding six conditions to the list of those that pharmacists can diagnose and treat, effective immediately, bringing the total to 19.

"Pharmacist prescribing has been a huge success in our province. In less than one year, Ontario has become one of the leading jurisdictions in all of Canada in providing health care services through pharmacies," Health Minister Sylvia Jones said at a press conference at a drugstore in Toronto's west end.

The province granted pharmacists prescribing power for 13 common ailments at the beginning of the year, and Jones said 89 per cent of pharmacists are now participating in the program.

She said there have been 400,000 assessments across Ontario since the beginning of the initiative.

The government first announced plans to expand pharmacists' prescribing powers in its March budget.

It's added acne, canker sores and yeast infections to the list, along with nausea and vomiting related to pregnancy, diaper rash and parasitic worms such as pinworms and threadworms.

Initially, pharmacists were granted the power to prescribe for ailments such as hay fever, oral thrush, pink eye, dermatitis, hemorrhoids and urinary tract infections.

The prescribing program is a pillar of the province's plan to chip away at a massive health-care backlog.

Jones said there's been some progress on that front, with surgical waitlists and the average time spent in an emergency room both on the decline.

The Ministry of Health has also sought feedback on a plan to allow pharmacists to prescribe flu medication, administer flu shots to babies and administer RSV vaccines, when available, ahead of an expected fall viral surge.

More controversially, the Progressive Conservative government passed a health reform bill back in May allowing more private clinics to offer certain publicly funded surgeries and procedures.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 1, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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