Expanded pharmacy services

B.C. is expanding the services that pharmacists can offer to help people get the care and prescriptions they need. 

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Last updated: November 3, 2022

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How prescriptions work

Prescriptions are valid for up to 2 years. If it has been 2 years since your prescription was written, it has likely expired. If your prescription has expired, you must get a new one from a doctor, nurse practitioner or nurse prescriber.

Often, your prescriber will request that you get a certain amount of your prescription filled at the pharmacy at a time. These are called prescription “refills.”

If you have used up all your medication and have no refills left, your pharmacist may be able to renew your prescription. This means you can continue to get your medication without visiting a doctor or other prescriber.

What a pharmacist can do for you

For most prescriptions, your pharmacist can:

  • Renew your prescription
  • Adjust the dose or the timing for how you take or use your medication
  • Change the formulation of your medication (for example, from a tablet to a capsule or a liquid)
  • Substitute your medication for a different but similar medication

Pharmacists can't renew or change cancer chemotherapy prescriptions. They also can’t change a prescription for narcotics and controlled drugs. Pharmacists can renew a prescription for narcotics and controlled drugs, but not for more than the quantity originally prescribed.

If you're experiencing side effects or having trouble taking your medication, ask your pharmacist for an assessment. If possible, talk to your family doctor or nurse practitioner first about problems with your medication.

How you can renew your prescription

Talk to your family doctor or nurse practitioner about how you are doing and whether you need to continue or change your prescription. 

Your pharmacist can also conduct an assessment and renew your prescription if:

  • You are stable, need to continue on your medication and have been on the same medication at the same dosage for 6 months or longer with no concerns
  • Your prescription is still valid and was issued in the last 24 months and the prescriber is still practising in B.C.

What to bring to the pharmacy

  • Government-issued ID, like your BC Services Card
  • Your Personal Health Number (PHN)
  • Your prescription paperwork or medication packaging

If your local pharmacist renews or changes your prescription, you must pick it up at the same pharmacy you normally go to.

You can't go to a different pharmacy location to renew your prescription.

Example: Pavan's story

Pavan's doctor writes her a prescription for ramipril for 1 year. She takes a 2.5 mg capsule each day. The pharmacist dispenses 90 capsules at a time. Pavan goes to the pharmacy every 90 days for a refill of 90 capsules.

At the end of 1 year, all prescribed capsules have been dispensed. Pavan knows she should continue on this medication, so she must get the prescription renewed.

She talks to her pharmacist. Since she has been on ramipril at the same dosage and regimen (1 capsule per day) for over 6 months with no concerns about uncontrolled blood pressure, the pharmacist renews her prescription for another year. Pavan gets her first fill of 90 capsules. She will need to get all of her refills at the same pharmacy.

Get an emergency supply of your medication

If your prescription was written more than 2 years ago and you are out of medication, talk to your pharmacist. They may be able to provide an emergency supply of medication until you can get a new prescription from a doctor or other prescriber.

Pharmacy services are expanding in 2023

In 2023, pharmacists will be able to prescribe some medications independently. This will include some forms of contraception and medication to treat minor ailments. This means you will be able to access care faster when you need it.

How to talk to your pharmacist about your health care

You can talk to your pharmacist about your prescriptions, your health and any concerns and questions. Talking to them can help you understand:

  • How your medications work
  • Why a specific medication or dosage was prescribed
  • What kind of side effects you might experience
  • How different drugs interact with each other

Pharmacists can also administer most injections for people 4 years and older, including:

  • Routine vaccinations like flu shots
  • Medication you're prescribed that has to be injected

Pharmacists are trained and licensed health care professionals. They are bound by the same ethics and confidentiality rules as your family doctor or nurse practitioner. Your health information and conversations with your pharmacist are private and confidential.

View your prescription history in Health Gateway

Your pharmacy will have access to your prescription records history. You can also access your health records by using the Health Gateway app.

Log in to Health Gateway to view your prescription history and other health records. You can access:

  • The medications you have been prescribed in the past
  • The dosages and directions for use for your medications

Prescription records are available back to 1995 for prescriptions issued in B.C. These records can help you have informed conversations with your pharmacist. They can also be used to show other insurance providers that you have coverage for certain medications through BC PharmaCare.

Access pharmacy services

You can access expanded pharmacy services in more than 1,400 community pharmacies across B.C.

Get coverage under BC PharmaCare

BC PharmaCare can help pay for:

  • Prescription drugs
  • Medical devices
  • Pharmacy services

You may be eligible for coverage under one or more PharmaCare plans, depending on your age, income and medication needs.

Resources for pharmacies

Download and print posters to help your patients understand how pharmacy services are changing. Posters are available in English, French, Punjabi, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese.