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Pharmacy services during the COVID-19 pandemic

Page last updated June 29, 2020 at 2:45 p.m. MT.

Your pharmacy team provides an essential service and is fully committed to helping you during this unprecedented time of COVID-19 pandemic. Pharmacy teams want to ensure that you have access to the right information to make good decisions about your health, including how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and what to do if you start feeling ill. Pharmacy teams want to make sure that everyone has access to the medications they need.

Demand for pharmacy services is high! To ensure that you, your family, and your community continue to get the care you need from your pharmacy team, we all need to work together. Our college is engaged with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and her team and are working to support her direction as the status of COVID-19 changes daily.

What do I need to know and what do I need to do?

  • DO NOT go to your pharmacy if you are feeling ill, particularly if you have flu-like symptoms including fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Complete the self-assessment using the tool provided by Alberta Health Services and, if appropriate, call 811.
  • DO call ahead, if you have questions for your pharmacist or require medications to be refilled. Pharmacists can provide an assessment of your needs over the phone. As demand is high, this will allow your pharmacy team to prepare your prescriptions in advance so that you spend a minimum amount of time at your pharmacy.
  • DO discuss how you are feeling with your pharmacy team member. If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms or if you are self-isolating, your pharmacy may be able to arrange to have your medications delivered to you.
  • DO practice social distancing. If you must go to your pharmacy, respect the distance between you and other individuals at the pharmacy. Try to maintain two (2) meters between you and other individuals at all times. Most importantly, practice this at the pharmacy counter. Allow space between you and your pharmacy team members, and provide additional space so that a degree of confidentiality can be respected for patients in front of you when they are engaging with their pharmacy team member.
  • DO practice good hand hygiene. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds each time.
  • DO keep you and your family informed by regularly checking on new information for the public on the Alberta Health Services webpage.

Supply limits for prescriptions

As of June 15, 2020, pharmacists may dispense up to a 100-day supply of medication if appropriate. The Alberta College of Pharmacy supports Alberta Health’s recommendation and encourages pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to begin to filling prescriptions as they normally would. Although drug supplies are stabilizing, Health Canada advises that “the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant shifts in the supply and demand of certain drugs. While supply levels may be stabilizing, supply pressures continue for certain drugs.”

Worldwide manufacturing and distribution channels continue to experience pressure while, at the same time, demands for certain medications have increased. To ensure that Albertans have continued access to the medications they need throughout the pandemic, Alberta Health expects pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to use their professional judgment and modify their dispensing procedures accordingly, including dispensing a maximum 30-day supply as necessary for critical medications that have been identified as being in short supply.

Drug supply continues to be monitored. Information about specific drug shortages are available at the Drug Shortages Canada website. Health Canada has also published a list of critical drugs that are in high demand or in shortage. ACP continues to work with other stakeholders to address supply issues and conserve supply of critical drugs in order to prevent drug shortages.

We recognize that there may be additional challenges for some Albertans, and we encourage pharmacists to consider strategies to minimize patient inconvenience, such as delivery or curb-side pickup of prescriptions. We also recognize that there may be unique situations that require alternative solutions. Please discuss your situation directly with your pharmacist.

COVID-19 has resulted in significant pressures on the healthcare system, but by working together with your pharmacy team, you can help protect Alberta’s drug supply and prevent drug shortages.

What do I do if my pharmacy temporarily closes or if I cannot access my pharmacy?

For various reasons, some pharmacies might need to close during the COVID-19 pandemic or shorten their hours. However, your medication needs can still be met.

If your pharmacy closes temporarily, we have requested that signage be posted on the pharmacy entrance to inform you about the closure, including contact information to assist you access alternate care. Pharmacies that temporarily close have been encouraged to leave a telephone message that will inform you about the closure, it’s duration, the location of the nearest licensed pharmacy, and other information to help you access pharmacy services during the closure period.

In single-pharmacy communities, alternate arrangements for patient care must be made with local prescribers or pharmacies in nearby communities.

If you visit a new pharmacy, pharmacy staff will not have access to your regular pharmacy record, so a new assessment of your health and related medication needs will be completed. The pharmacist may ask about your health history, current health status, current drug therapy, and then check your electronic health record to support them in making an informed decision about your drug therapy. They will know whether they can issue a prescription to continue your therapy or if they need to consult with your doctor or other health professional. The bottom line is that they will want to make an informed decision to ensure you receive the medications that are most appropriate for you, in as timely a manner as possible.

We know that this time is hard for you and your family. Your pharmacy team is prepared and committed to support your health and medication needs. Your experience may be a little different during the pandemic but be assured that your pharmacy team is doing their best to meet your needs and the overall medication needs of your community.

Thank you for your commitment to work together in curbing COVID-19.