ACP has received questions about selling, distributing, and performing rapid antigen tests through pharmacies given the various federal requirements and provincial programs. Below are a few important points for pharmacy teams to consider when providing any of these services.
Selling rapid tests to the public
Health Canada has authorized over 100 different COVID-19 tests. This includes 25 point-of-care tests (POCTs) as well as 10 “self-testing” devices for use by the general public. Rapid antigen tests for self-testing may be sold to the general public; however, regulated members must inform the public when they can access tests at no extra cost through federal or provincial publicly funded programs.
Distributing rapid tests to the public (federal/provincial programs)
In usual circumstances, POCTs are designed for use by an approved operator (i.e., health care providers). A recent Health Canada exemption permits the distribution of POCTs to the general public regardless of the intended end user. While no exemption is needed to distribute self-testing devices for use by the general public, this exemption permits POCTs to be distributed to the public for personal use.
Health Canada has listed specific conditions that must be met if participating in the distribution of federal or provincially supplied rapid antigen tests
These exemptions are in effect until March 31, 2022.
Laboratory and POCT standards and guidance
When participating in the sale or distribution of rapid antigen tests, or performing these or any other POCT, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians must review the following to ensure they are providing their patients safe, appropriate, and quality care:
- Standards of Practice – Laboratory and Point-of-Care Testing (POCT), and
- Guidance for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians – Laboratory and Point-of-Care Testing (POCT).
POCT in pharmacies must be performed by regulated members
Remember, pharmacists must conduct a patient-specific assessment to determine clinical suitability before ordering, conducting, or directing a pharmacy technician to conduct a POCT. Pharmacists must also interpret the results of any POCT they order or conduct. Refer to the standards and guidance for more information.
Only pharmacists, or pharmacy technicians under the direction of a pharmacist, may conduct POCT in pharmacies. Non-regulated staff, such as pharmacy assistants, are not permitted to conduct POCT in pharmacies. This ensures compliance with the above standards and guidelines and that the testing is performed in an appropriate manner. Only regulated members can refer the patient to another health professional (if necessary), ensure quality assurance of the test, and document the results.