N.L. pharmacists back Bill C-17 to improve patient safety

Josh Pennell
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Still hoping local changes will give pharmacists expanded role

A federal bill to increase patient safety has the support of the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacists’ Association (PANL).

Bill C-17 incorporates a number of measures, such as requiring the reporting of serious adverse drug reactions and significantly increasing fines for drug companies found to be using unsafe practices. It also enhances the federal government’s ability to recall unsafe products.

Stephen Reid, executive director of PANL, said these issues have been a concern across the country.

For example, the aging population, along with a growing number of people with multiple allergies, makes understanding how drugs react with each other extremely important.

“Pharmacists actually have the time, and they understand — with their relationship with the patient — what they’re taking, because they have it in front of them,” Reid said. “They know how the molecules work. They know how they interact with each other.”

In a news release, Reid noted, “It is estimated that by leveraging the pharmacists’ ability to counsel patients at the beginning of their treatments, we could improve patient outcomes and save the Newfoundland and Labrador government between $2.7 million to $5.3 million in preventable health-care costs related to adverse drug reactions.”

The bill also gives the government tools in recognition of the fact that the push for lower drug costs  may result in pharmaceutical companies moving to manufacture drugs in Third World countries where health and safety rules are less stringent.

Bill C-17 gives the government the power to:

•   Recall unsafe products.

•    Impose tough new penalties for unsafe products, including jail time and new fines of up to $5 million per day instead of the current $5,000.

•    Provide courts with the discretion to impose even harsher fines if violations were caused intentionally.

Pharmacists actually have the time, and they understand — with their relationship with the patient — what they’re taking, because they have it in front of them. Stephen Reid, executive director, N.L. Pharmacists’ Association

•    Compel drug companies to do further testing on a product, including when issues are identified with certain at-risk populations, such as children.

PANL supports these measures, as well as the fact the legislation would compel drug companies to revise labels to clearly reflect health risk information, including potential updates for health warnings for children.

Reid thinks the bill will pass.

Wants expanded role

But PANL would like to see more change to the role pharmacists play in the health-care system.

A story in P.E.I.’s Journal Pioneer this week highlighted the expanded role pharmacists can now play in that province.

It gives them decision-making abilities in adapting prescriptions by modifying dosage, formulation, regimen or duration.

Reid says this province is the only one in Atlantic Canada that hasn’t given similar powers to pharmacists.

“That was one of the key proposals that we put forward back in September to the government,” he says. “Being able to adapt certain medications and being able to adjust it is something that the pharmacists can play a greater role in because they know what the patient’s history is, similar to the doctor.”

If a drug is not working for a particular condition, for example, the pharmacist would have the leeway to increase or decrease or try another similar drug.

Such abilities would take pressure off wait times in doctors’ offices and emergency rooms, Reid believes.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is considering implementing these changes.



Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, P.E.I., Atlantic Canada

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