Pharmacy U

COVID-19. Pharmacists on the frontlines. Susan Beresford – “How do we get the truth out there?”

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by Susan Beresford BSc.Phm.

As a community pharmacist practicing to the full extent of Nova Scotia’s scope (i.e. assessing patients, prescribing medications and providing injections), I was so disappointed to again be defined by a bottle of pills – the 30-day supply bottle of pills!

I have had other healthcare practitioners asking about this aspect of COVID public health strategies so they can explain it to their patients. Which in theory sounds great, but it always devolves into a discussion about how we are making money off the backs of every patient…really?!

The loudest patient complainers seem to be the ones paying the least because then it becomes a matter of principle to protect the public. Protect the public, which is exactly what we are doing – so where is the disconnect in communicating this basic tenet of our professional practice?

Where is the clarity and transparency about the release of active ingredients, the production of product, transport of product and allocation by national wholesalers? Why has the public been in effect shielded from the truth about drug allocation, the filtering of orders, the possible and very real disruptions in our supply chain? I have felt like forcefully sharing Jack Nicholson’s line “You can’t handle the truth!”, but that would mean that my truth was narrow and skewed to only my perspective.

So how do we get the truth out there without being accused of fear mongering? Perhaps it is time for the federal government to step up and share with Canadians that these are trying times and we need to allocate a few to the many to assure a stable supply. Perhaps drug supply is as important as assuring Canadians that their meat supply is secure in the midst of COVID outbreaks at processing plants. Perhaps we need leadership that shares that we are all in this together to make sure Canadians have access to and benefit from their prescription medications.

After years of trying to help the public understand that we can and do provide so much more than a bottle of medication, perhaps now is the time to make stronger statements that support this with the public, with others in our profession and with government. My experience in Nova Scotia is that the federal and provincial governments are listening and have mandated the scope we need to support our healthcare system today and in the future; we just need to do it. Let’s help the public understand that we are assessible, capable, professionals providing services to improve their health for acute and chronic conditions.

Practising pharmacy in the time of COVID could be about so much more than a 30-day supply – assessing and prescribing for a multitude of acute ailments and chronic conditions, assessing and then providing renewals on many prescription medications, being easily accessible sources of health information, monitoring and support; in short, being a healthcare practitioner integral to our patients’ health – their pharmacist!

Susan Beresford BScPhm. is Dispensary Manager at Kinburn Pharmasave in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia