Pharmacy Services in B.C.

Publication date: May 15, 2024

Pharmacists are an important part of your health care team and offer a variety of services. Over 409,000 people have been treated for minor ailments or gotten free contraceptives from pharmacists since June 2023. Book an appointment or walk-in to a pharmacy to find out more.

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How pharmacists can help you

In addition to consulting on and dispensing prescriptions, pharmacists can: 

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.

Pharmacies charge different amounts for drugs and for dispensing them. You can compare prices and services before you fill a prescription. If you need help paying for medications and pharmacy services, consider registering for Fair PharmaCare.

Get help with a minor ailment

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.

If your symptoms match one of the minor ailments below, you can book an appointment or visit a pharmacy for an assessment.


Acne (mild)

  • Whiteheads and/or blackheads, or
  • Small red bumps and pimples filled with pus

Read more about acne at HealthLink BC.


Allergies and hay fever

One or more of the following, unrelated to an infection such as cold or flu:

  • Stuffy or runny nose (usually clear and watery)
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy nose, eyes, and/or throat

Read more about allergies (allergic rhinitis) at HealthLink BC.


Canker sores (oral ulcers)

  • 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.


Cold sores

  • 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.


Fungal infections

  • 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:



  • Symptoms include pain, tightness and pressure on both sides of head and across forehead of mild to moderate intensity with no nausea or vomiting.

Read more about headaches at HealthLink BC.


Heartburn (acid reflux/ GERD)

  • Burping, stomach acid rising from stomach into mouth
  • Burning feeling in the stomach or lower chest rising to the neck

Read more about heartburn (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) 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.


Hives and itching, including from bug bites (urticaria)

  • Small bumps or blisters that may be painful, itchy and/or swollen
  • May feel like a sharp burning pain or stinging

Read more about dry skin and itching at HealthLink BC.



  • Small blisters on skin that ooze fluid, then dry to form yellow-brown crust
  • Usually appears around nose and mouth
  • May itch, but usually not painful

Read more about impetigo at HealthLink BC


Menstrual pain

  • Pain and cramps in the lower abdomen (belly), and/or
  • Pain in the lower back that starts a few hours before a period

Read more about menstrual cramps at HealthLink BC.


Nicotine dependence

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.


Pink eye (conjunctivitis)

  • 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.


Pinworms or threadworms

  • 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.



  • Painful, blistering rash on one side of face or body, and
  • Pain, burning, tingling or numbness around affected area 1-5 days before rash appears

Read more about shingles at HealthLink BC.


Skin rash (dermatitis)

Includes diaper rash and seborrheic, contact, allergic, and atopic dermatitis. Symptoms may include one or more of the following:

  • Dry, red and itchy skin
  • Cracked and oozing blisters
  • Scaly and patchy skin

Read more about eczema (atopic dermatitis) and allergic reaction at HealthLink BC.


Sprains and strains (musculoskeletal pain)

  • 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.


Thrush (oral fungal infection)

  • 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.


Upset stomach (indigestion)

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.


Urinary tract infection (uncomplicated)

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:


Yeast infection (vaginal candidiasis)

  • Vaginal itch, irritation and redness with white, cottage cheese–like discharge

Read more about vaginal yeast infection at HealthLink BC.

Book an appointment

You can also visit a pharmacy to access this service without an appointment. Services offered and pharmacist availability may vary by location.

Get contraceptives (birth control)

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).

Book an appointment

You can also visit a pharmacy to access this service without making an appointment. Services offered and appointment availability may vary by location.

Get immunizations and injections of prescribed medications

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.

Change a prescription or get an emergency supply

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

Pharmacists cannot:

  • 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.

Review and manage your medications

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.

Get coverage under BC PharmaCare

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.

I have questions

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