As with toilet paper and food items, some people are unnecessarily trying to stock up on prescription drugs as the medical system copes with coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, says the B.C. Pharmacy Association.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix has announced a series of measures to help free up doctors, including cancelling elective surgeries, calling on retired and military doctors, and allowing chronic medicine patients to get prescription refills directly from their pharmacist.
With a surge of people attempting to refill expired prescriptions or get new ones, the B.C. Pharmacy Association issued a reminder to patients that legal limits on drug distribution remain in effect. Expired prescriptions may temporarily be refilled if they were issued within the past year, with a 30-day supply so people can self-isolate for 14 days or more if they have symptoms of respiratory illness.
“There has been a significant increase in requests for prescription renewals and emergency refills, and some confusion around the regulations pharmacists must follow,” Annette Robinson, vice president of the B.C. Pharmacy Association, told Black Press. “We are recommending that patients phone their regular pharmacy to discuss their needs with a pharmacist or a pharmacy team member.”
If patients have refills left on a prescription, they are also advised to call first to arrange direct refill. If they have no refills left, “in certain situations” additional supplies may be provided.
Birth control pills can be renewed for up to two years from the original date the prescription was written, and that is the only exception to the one-year expiry, Robinson said.
PharmaCare, the provincial drug insurance agency, has issued advice to pharmacists to participate in COVID-19 assistance.
“Reduce prescriber visits by providing up to 30-day emergency supplies to patients with expired prescriptions,” says the latest pharmacist newsletter from PharmaCare. “This may be repeated for another 30-day supply if necessary. This includes narcotics, psychiatric drugs and anti-psychotics for chronic conditions.”
Birth control pills can be renewed for up to two years from the original date the prescription was written.
The main goal for pharmacists in the COVID-19 emergency is to provide people with an adequate supply of their regular medications so they can self-isolate, or to refill prescriptions that run out during the period of high demand for physician services.
“Patients are encouraged not to stockpile medications,” the association said in a public statement March 17. “Pharmacists aim to make sure all patients have access to their medications, so they are generally not providing more than a 30-day supply to support those who are self-isolating.”
No new medications can be dispensed without a doctor’s prescription, only renewals for chronic conditions.