Credits: DAMIEN WOOD/QMI AGENCY
Beginning July 1, prescription renewals will be added to the list of services Alberta pharmacies can provide, and the cost of generic medications will drop.
Pharmacists' new role is expected to remove some burden from the province's physicians.
"Essentially, we are opening 1,000 new locations to get prescriptions renewed, which will provide Albertans with more access, more options and more convenience," Health Minister Fred Horne said recently.
"This initiative also supports physicians by freeing up time to see more patients, especially those with complex health needs."
Neil Cameron, Alberta Pharmacists Association president, said the changes will put pharmacists in "the best position to grow in their role as co-ordinators of drug therapy management."
The Alberta government is expecting to save roughly $85 million in 2012-13 on the price it pays for generic drugs, savings it will in part pass on to consumers.
Of those savings, $5.3 million will be made available to help pharmacies in remote communities adjust to the changes as part of a three-year, $15.9 million remote pharmacy access grant.
"We want to make sure that Albertans living in remote communities have access to pharmacists and pharmacy services to help them stay healthy," Horne said.
Dr. James Kehrer, dean of the faculty of pharmacy at the University of Alberta, said pharmacists are "uniquely placed in the system, particularly in rural areas, to address the many challenges associated with drug therapy."
He said he's confident the changes will "help pharmacists provide a more supportive and accessible continuum of primary health care."