Pharmacy Services in B.C.
Pharmacists are an important part of your health care team and offer a wide variety of services in more than 1,400 community pharmacies throughout B.C.
Last updated: November 24, 2023
On this page:
- How pharmacists can help you
- Get help with a minor ailment
- Get contraceptives (birth control)
- Get immunizations and injections of prescribed medications
- Change a prescription or get an emergency supply
- Review and manage your medications
- Get coverage under BC PharmaCare
- I have questions
In addition to consulting on and dispensing prescriptions, pharmacists can:
- Assess and treat 21 minor ailments like urinary tract infections (UTIs), allergies, pink eye, dermatitis, and nicotine dependence
- Prescribe and dispense contraceptives (birth control)
- Renew or change some prescriptions or provide you with an emergency supply
- Administer immunizations and drugs by injection
- Help you understand and manage your medications as well as other over-the-counter products
- Make recommendations for you to see another health care professional for further assessment
What to bring to the pharmacy
Pharmacists are licensed health care professionals. They are bound by the same confidentiality rules as a family doctor or nurse practitioner. Your health information and conversations are private and confidential.
Pharmacists can assess and treat 21 minor ailments such as UTIs, allergies, pink eye and dermatitis. The service is free for B.C. residents when provided in person, in a pharmacy.
Your visit may include:
- A prescription
- Advice for self-management
- A recommendation to see another health care provider
Minor ailments self-assessment checklist:
For severe symptoms or medical emergencies, seek immediate medical attention or call 9-1-1.
- Small, shallow, painful, recurrent lesions on lining inside the mouth, cheek or on the tongue
- Lesions usually have red border with white or yellow centre
Read more about canker sores at HealthLink BC.
- Begins with itching, tingling, or burning sensation at border of lip. A cluster of fluid-filled, painful blisters soon appear (usually within 24 hours), surrounded by redness. Blisters then break, crust over, and usually heal within 7-10 days.
Read more about cold sores at HealthLink BC.
- Jock itch: Large, round, red patches with bumpy or scaly, well-defined borders, usually on upper inner thigh or groin. May spread to inner leg toward buttocks or toward stomach/abdomen. Commonly itchy, burning
- Athlete’s foot: Commonly occurs between toes but may occur on other areas of the feet. May be itchy, cracked or scaly, inflamed or blistered skin that burns and/or hurts
- Ringworm: Small, round, red patch with well-defined bumpy or scaly border that usually occurs on neck, trunk or limbs. May feel itchy or burning
- Nail infection: May occur in fingernails or toenails. Commonly, thickened, brittle nails starting at tip of nail and spreading to the whole nail with yellow/white or orange/brown-coloured vertical streaks. May have pain or discomfort
Read more about these conditions at HealthLink BC:
- Itching, burning, swelling (with or without pain), or presence of a lump around the anus/rectum, and/or
- Bright red blood during or after a bowel movement (may be light spotting on toilet paper or drops of blood in toilet bowl)
Read more about hemorrhoids at HealthLink BC.
Pharmacists can start you on a free 12-week course of nicotine patches, lozenges or gum. They can also prescribe the oral medications varenicline or bupropion, which you may have to pay for some or all of, depending on your PharmaCare coverage.
Meet with a pharmacist to get help quitting cigarettes or using other tobacco products.
Read more on how to quit smoking at HealthLink BC.
- Red eye(s) plus discharge that is watery and mucus-like, or that is thick and white, yellow or green, and/or
- Scratchy, burning, itching or the feeling that something is in the eye
Read more about pink eye at HealthLink BC.
- Itchy anus and belly pain are common, although some people have no symptoms
Note: Diagnosis usually involves visual inspection of worms or using adhesive to trap eggs for examination.
Read more about pinworms at HealthLink BC.
- Pain, swelling or tenderness (mild to medium severity)
- Redness or bruising
- Limited range of motion with muscle weakness
- Injury associated with overworking or straining
Read more about ankle sprain at HealthLink BC.
- White or cream-white spots/patches on lips, inside mouth, on tongue and/or roof of mouth
- Cottage cheese–like appearance
- Patches can be scraped off
- May experience dry mouth and/or loss of taste
Read more about thrush at HealthLink BC.
Common symptoms include heartburn, nausea, bloating, stomach discomfort, feeling full soon after eating, burping up food, stomach acid or gas.
Read more about indigestion (dyspepsia) at HealthLink BC.
Symptoms typically include:
- Frequent urination, pain while urinating, and difficulty holding in urine
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
If you are pregnant or male, please visit a doctor or nurse practitioner.
Read more about this condition at HealthLink BC:
You can also visit a pharmacy to access this service without an appointment. Services offered and pharmacist availability may vary by location.
Pharmacists can prescribe and provide many types of contraception (birth control). These contraceptives are free for B.C. residents:
- Most prescription contraceptive pills
- Intrauterine devices (IUDs) – hormonal and copper*
- Hormonal implant*
- Hormonal vaginal ring
- Contraceptive injection**
- Emergency contraception
*While the pharmacist can provide IUDs and implants, you will need to arrange a visit with a doctor or clinic for insertion.
**Pharmacists can administer the hormonal contraceptive injection
Visit HealthLink BC for more information on contraception (birth control).
You can also visit a pharmacy to access this service without making an appointment. Services offered and appointment availability may vary by location.
Pharmacists can give most vaccines and administer drugs by injection for people 4 years of age and older, including:
- Influenza (flu), COVID-19, shingles, measles, pneumonia, human papillomavirus, tetanus and more
- Medications prescribed by a health care provider, like B12 or hormone therapy
Call your pharmacy or visit their website to book an appointment for immunization or medication injections. You can also book an appointment in person.
For more information on flu and COVID vaccines, visit B.C.’s respiratory illness page.
Pharmacists can often renew or change your prescription. If a pharmacist renews or changes your prescription, you must pick it up at the same pharmacy location.
Renew your prescription
A pharmacist may be able to renew your prescription if:
- You used up all your medication and have no refills left
- Your condition is stable, you need to continue your medication, and you have been on the same medication at the same dosage (6 months or longer with no concerns)
- Your prescription was issued in the past 24 months and the prescriber is still practicing in B.C. If not, a pharmacist may be able to find a prescriber to renew it
- Renew or change cancer chemotherapy prescriptions
- Renew prescriptions for narcotics and controlled drugs for more than the amount of time originally prescribed
Change your prescription
A pharmacist may be able to change your prescription dose, formulation, regimen, or substitute for a similar drug.
Pharmacists cannot change prescriptions for narcotics, or controlled or targeted substances.
Get an emergency supply
Prescriptions are valid for up to 2 years from the date they were written. If you have just run out of medication and your prescription was written more than 2 years ago, your pharmacist may be able to provide an emergency supply until you can get a new prescription from a doctor or other prescriber.
When you get a prescription filled, the pharmacist reviews your medications and considers potential drug interactions and side effects.
You can talk to them about your prescriptions or any concerns about your health.
If you are taking five or more medications, you may be eligible to ask your pharmacist for a medication review. A pharmacist will meet with you to create a list of all your medications and other health products, and discuss how best to take them.
BC PharmaCare helps BC residents pay for eligible prescriptions, medical devices and pharmacy services.
The Fair PharmaCare plan is based on income. The lower your income, the more help you get. Learn more about BC PharmaCare.
View your prescription history
You can access your B.C. prescription records dating back to 1995 through the Health Gateway app.
Phone the Service BC call centre if you have questions about minor ailments and contraception services. Call centre agents cannot answer questions about specific medical conditions or treatment options.
Call: 1-833-882-0022 Monday to Friday, 8:00 am - 4:30 pm. Translators are available.
Telephone for the Deaf: Dial 711
Video Relay Services (VRS) sign language interpretation is free for people who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired