Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Last updated: April 1, 2020

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, a pandemic, citing concern over alarming levels of spread and severity across the globe. 

The novel coronavirus has caused a global outbreak of respiratory infections since its discovery in December 2019. For most, this coronavirus causes only mild to moderate symptoms including fever and cough, however, older adults and those with existing health problems are at greater risk for more severe symptoms such as pneumonia. 

The situation regarding COVID-19 continues to evolve here in BC, Canada and other jurisdictions in the world. The College of Pharmacists of BC is working closely with the Ministry of Health and other partners to support the response to this new illness as part of BC’s health system.

The College will continue to provide any updated information or guidance for pharmacy professionals on this page as it becomes available. Keep checking this page for updates.

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Latest College Updates

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Advice from the Provincial Health Officer

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how to get tested for covid-19

Testing is available for all who need it but not everyone requires a test.  If you develop symptoms, use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to help determine if you need further assessment or testing for COVID-19.

Who should be tested for COVID-19?

People with respiratory symptoms who are:

  • Hospitalized, or likely to be hospitalized
  • Health Care Workers
  • Residents of long term care facilities
  • Part of an investigation of a cluster or outbreak

Who does not need to be tested for COVID-19?

  • People without symptoms
  • Patients with mild respiratory symptoms who can be managed at home, including returning travellers with an onset of illness within 14 days of return to Canada

The BC Ministry of Health strongly urges anyone who has symptoms - including a fever, cough, sneezing, sore throat, or difficulty breathing - to self-isolate for 14 days. To protect yourself while out in public, wash your hands frequently and maintain a distance of about 2 metres from others.

PRIORITY TESTING FOR PHARMACY PROFESSIONALS 

As frontline health care workers, BC's pharmacy professionals will have access to priority testing for COVID-19.

Pharmacy professionals who have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 infection should be following the COVID-19 testing process developed for all British Columbia health care workers.

Please be aware that all testing centres may not have been notified that pharmacy professionals (including community pharmacy) are designated as health care workers and are eligible for testing.

Refer to the List of Essential Services for confirmation of health care worker status.

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INFORMATION FOR PATIENTS AND MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC

If you have COVID-19, or think you might have it, help prevent spreading by following the BC CDC’s instructions on How to stop the spread of germs.

Call ahead before you get medical care. By calling ahead, you help the clinic, hospital, lab, urgent care or doctor's office prepare for your visit and stop the spread of germs. 

BC COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool

Use this Self-Assessment Tool to help determine if you need further assessment or testing for COVID-19.

BC COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool

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Non-medical information about COVID-19

The Province of BC has created a phone service to provide non-medical information about COVID-19, including the latest information on travel recommendations and social distancing. Information is available in more than 110 languages, 7:30 am - 8 pm at 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319) or via text message at 604-630-0300.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has set up a novel coronavirus telephone information line at: 1-833-784-4397.

Patients and members of the public are encouraged to consult the BCCDC’s COVID-19 information page for more information on COVID-19:

Information on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) – BC Centre for Disease Control 

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VISITING YOUR PHARMACY 

AVOID VISITING A PHARMACY IN PERSON IF YOU ARE UNWELL OR SELF-ISOLATING

ALWAYS PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING WHILE IN A PHARMACY OR WHEN RECEIVING A DELIVERY OF MEDICATIONS.
 

If you are feeling unwell and require medications, please do not visit your pharmacy. Instead, CALL your pharmacy and they will arrange to safely provide you with any medications you may need.

Avoid entering a pharmacy if: 

  • You are feeling ill and/or are exhibiting any of the following symptoms of COVID-19: 
    • Fever 
    • Cough 
    • Shortness of Breath or Difficulty Breathing
  • You are required to self isolate due to travel or other potential exposure to COVID-19 

Many pharmacies provide delivery services which can help patients – especially those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 – avoid visiting a pharmacy in-person.

Patients can also arrange to have someone to pick up their medications for them.

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YOU DO NOT NEED TO STOCKPILE MEDICATIONS 

Stockpiling medications is harmful to the drug supply and could put others at risk. 

30-days is being recommended in most cases to help reduce the potential strain on the drug supply chain. However, Patients with compromised immune systems or who have an increased risk of more severe outcomes from COVID-19 may require more so that they do not have to go to a pharmacy or clinic if they do become sick.

Patients should speak to their pharmacist about their personal health situation, and their pharmacist can recommend an appropriate supply of medications. 

How to Access Medications You Need​

Older adults and those with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems may wish to refill their prescriptions so that they do not have to go to a busy pharmacy if they do become sick. 

To avoid any non-essential visits with a doctor or nurse practitioner, a pharmacist can also provide you with a refill of your prescription or provide you with an emergency supply of medications you need. ​

When accessing prescription refills during the COVID-19 pandemic, patients should be advised that: 

  • You must already be taking the medication; or have an existing prescription for the medication. 
  • Expired prescriptions CAN be filled by a pharmacist 
    • The pharmacist will work with the patient to determine the appropriateness and the amount of supply. 
  • Refills will only be provided for chronic conditions

The College’s Find a Pharmacy tool can help you locate a pharmacy in your community. 

Medication Delivery

If you need to stay at home and require medication, many pharmacies provide delivery services.

Patients should contact their pharmacy to confirm that they are able to provide this service. 

Tell your pharmacy if you are experiencing symptoms or are self-isolating and require medications to be delivered to you.

Practice social distancing when medications are delivered to you.  

Sending someone to pick up medications for you

If you need to stay at home and require medication, you can ask someone to pick up your medications for you.

Patients should contact their pharmacy to confirm the process for sending someone to pick up their medications on your behalf.

For additional information visit:

NEWS: COVID-19 Public Information - Prescription Refills Can Be Provided by a Pharmacist

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INFORMATION FOR HEALTH PROFESSIONALS

The current situation unfolding across Canada and the world is unprecedented and the College would like to remind BC’s pharmacy professionals of their continued duty to act in the best interests of their patients and the public.

This means pharmacists have an important role to play in helping patients avoid non-essential visits with primary care providers.

BC’s health professionals should follow the advice provided by the BC Centre for Disease Control. 

If you have questions about the novel coronavirus as a health care provider or for a health care facility, contact your local public health unit. To find your local health unit go to immunizebc.ca/finder

Additional contact information is available at: bccdc.ca/contact

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SCREENING AND PREVENTING SPREAD OF COVID-19

The public is being asked to avoid visiting a pharmacy in-person if they are experiencing symptoms or are self-isolating. They are also being asked to practice social distancing while in a pharmacy or when receiving a delivery of medications.

Pharmacists should make use of the BC COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool.

BC COVID-19 SYMPTOM SELF-ASSESSMENT TOOL

Use this Self-Assessment Tool to help determine if you need further assessment or testing for COVID-19.

BC COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool

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SUSPECTED CASES OF COVID-19: STEPS TO TAKE IN THE PHARMACY

The BC Pharmacy Association has developed a Suspected cases of COVID-19: Steps to take in the pharmacy tool which has been adapted from the BC Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 Patient ID and Assessment for Primary Care document and the British Columbia COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool.

For more information and tools on conducting risk assessments related to COVID-19 exposure, see:

  • Managing COVID-19 exposure in a pharmacy

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SIGNAGE FOR YOUR PHARMACY

The BC Pharmacy Association has created patient-facing poster asking patients with respiratory illness symptoms to wait outside the pharmacy, instead of going inside, to access service. 

This poster is not intended to turn patients away without a thorough attempt to provide them the service they need. 

Patient-facing COVID-19 safety posters are also available in multiple languages. 
 

COVID-19 SIGNAGE - STOP AND CALL [ENGLISH] (UPDATED MARCH 18, 2020)

COVID-19 PATIENT POSTER [ENGLISH] (UPDATED MARCH 13, 2020)
COVID-19 PATIENT POSTER [ENGLISH/CHINESE SIMPLIFIED] (UPDATED MARCH 18, 2020)
COVID-19 PATIENT POSTER [ENGLISH/PUNJABI] (UPDATED MARCH 18, 2020)
COVID-19 PATIENT POSTER [FARSI] (UPDATED MARCH 18, 2020)

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Providing Prescription Refills and emergency supplies of medication as needed

The Provincial Health Officer announced that patients need to obtain refills of their regular prescriptions at pharmacies in an effort to avoid non-essential physician visits and free doctors to treat COVID-19 cases.

ReadLinks - BC’s COVID-19 Response - Pharmacists to Provide Prescription Refills and Emergency Supplies of Medication as Needed

PROVIDING AN EMERGENCY SUPPLY OF PRESCRIPTION DRUGS 

The College is asking pharmacists to act in the best interests of patients by: 

Providing up to 30-day emergency supplies to patients with expired prescriptions, including narcotics, psychiatric drugs and anti-psychotics for chronic conditions. This may be repeated for another 30-day supply if necessary.

The policy provides broad latitude for pharmacist decisions on emergency supplies, provided it is in the patient’s best interest and all decisions are properly documented with rationale.  

Providing early refills to people so they can self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days – and longer for seniors and other more vulnerable populations. 

Patients with compromised immune systems or who have an increased risk of more severe outcomes from COVID-19 may require more supply so that they can avoid visiting a pharmacy in-person.

Pharmacy professionals also need to help prevent disruptions to the drug supply by managing stock appropriately. Do not exceed the max days’ supply on refills and do not over-order.

PHARMACARE INFORMATION ON COVID-19 

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Accepting Verbal and Faxed Orders for Controlled Drugs

VERBAL ORDERS FOR CONTROLLED DRUGS

Under Health Canada’s temporary exemptions for prescriptions of controlled substances, the College Board has amended Section 19(6) of the Pharmacy Operations and Drug Scheduling Act (PODSA) Bylaws to permit pharmacists to dispense drugs included in the controlled prescription program upon receiving a verbal order from a practitioner, if doing so is permitted under a section 56 exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Under these requirements, the pharmacy must receive the original prescription form from the practitioner as soon as reasonably possible. Any method by which a prescriber can safely provide the original form to the pharmacy is appropriate.

A registrant must make a written record of the verbal authorization in accordance with Section 6(7) of the Community Pharmacy Standards of Practice, as well as applicable federal legislation.

This written record MUST include:

  • The pharmacist’s signature or initial
  • The name of the practitioner providing the verbal order
  • The practitioner’s college identification number

Learn more:

Faxing of Controlled Prescription Program Forms

The College Board has amended the Community Pharmacy Standards of Practice to allow pharmacists to dispense prescriptions received by facsimile transmission for drugs referred to on the Controlled Prescription Drug List during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a public health emergency, when receiving a prescription authorization by fax for a drug referred to on the Controlled Prescription Drug List, the pharmacy must receive

  • a completed copy of the Controlled Prescription Program form transmitted by facsimile prior to dispensing the medication; and
  • the original form by mail* as soon as reasonably possible.

*Note: Any method by which a prescriber can safely provide the original form to the pharmacy is appropriate.

Learn more:

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Medication Delivery and Pickup

A pharmacist should confirm if their patient is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or are self-isolating prior to delivering medications. In addition, a pharmacist should consider how to maintain physical distancing while delivering medications to a patient.

Pharmacies are able to deliver medications, or provide medications to patient representatives in line with College policies which include confirming identity and providing counselling. See:

Delivering Controlled Drugs

Under Health Canada’s temporary exemptions for prescriptions of controlled substances, pharmacy employees in BC are permitted to deliver prescriptions of controlled substances on behalf of a pharmacist (excluding opioid agonist treatment) to patients at their homes or alternate locations.

Delivery of controlled substances by pharmacy employees must meet the requirements set out in the temporary exemption.

Any individual who delivers a controlled substance on behalf of a pharmacist must:

  1. Deliver the controlled substance to the individual identified in the prescription (or to a person responsible for that individual’s care);
  2. Obtain in writing a note from the pharmacist identifying the name of the individual effecting the delivery, the name and quantity of the controlled substance to be delivered, and the place of delivery; and,
  3. Have the above note as well as a copy of this exemption while effecting the delivery.

See Health Canada’s temporary exemption requirements:

At this time, only pharmacists in British Columbia are permitted to deliver opioid agonist treatment, and must do so in accordance with Professional Practice Policy – 71: Delivery of Opioid Agonist Treatment.

Note: Health Canada’s policy position Transportation of Controlled Substances in Canada already permitted pharmacists to transport controlled substances to patients with an appropriate prescription.

Pharmacists Can Deliver OAT Without Prescriber Authorization

New delivery requirements for Opioid Agonist Treatment, allowing pharmacists to use their professional judgement to deliver the drugs to a patient if they feel it is safe, appropriate and in the best interest of the patient to do so, came into effect March 17, 2020.

This means prescribers no longer need to authorize delivery for Opioid Agonist Treatment drugs.

A pharmacist should confirm if their patient is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or are self-isolating prior to delivering OAT. In addition, a pharmacist should consider how to maintain physical distancing while delivering medications to a patient.

For more information, see:

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Transferring Prescriptions for Controlled Drugs to Other Pharmacists

As part of Health Canada’s temporary exemptions, the College has amended the Community Pharmacy Standards of Practice to allow for the transfer of a prescription for controlled drug substances to other pharmacies licenced in British Columbia.

The changes allow a registrant to transfer a prescription for a controlled drug substance if the transfer is permitted under a section 56 exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

This means pharmacists are able to transfer a prescription for drugs referred to on the Controlled Prescription Drug List under Controlled Drugs and Substances Act - Subsection 56(1) Class Exemption for Patients, Practitioners and Pharmacists Prescribing and Providing Controlled Substances in Canada During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Learn more:

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PROVIDING CONTINUITY OF CARE FOR PATIENTS WITH SUBSTANCE USE DISORDERS

The declaration of a public health emergency related to COVID-19 means that British Columbia is now facing two concurrent crises: one, the rapidly escalating spread of the novel coronavirus and another, the ongoing opioid overdose crisis.

Supporting the health and safety of people who use drugs, their support networks, and frontline workers who provide essential services, is a critical concern.

For pharmacy practice requirements that support continuity of care for patients with substance use disorder see:

Guidance from BCCSU

Immunocompromised patients and those who exhibit symptoms or are under quarantine or self-isolation may not be able to attend the pharmacy for their witnessed dose or to pick up their carries.

The BC Centre on Substance Use has released opioid agonist treatment guidance for pharmacists. See:

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Loss oR theft of controlled substances 

All those working with controlled substances and precursor chemicals must take proper security measures. 

To report loss or theft of a controlled substance or precursor, please complete the Loss or Theft Report Form and submit it via email to Health Canada. 

If a forged prescription was filled, please report it as a theft in the Loss or Theft Report Form. Please note that Forgery Reports are no longer accepted. 

Note: As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Health Canada staff have been working remotely, which has affected their ability to monitor fax machines on a routine basis. As such, pharmacy professionals are asked to submit their Loss or Theft Report Forms through email instead of fax. 

If the Health Canada website is inaccessible, a copy of the form can be obtained and sent directly to: hc.ocs.reporting-rapporter.bsc.sc@canada.ca 

Additional Information on Loss and Theft Reporting

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MANAGING COVID-19 EXPOSURE IN A PHARMACY

In the event that someone in a pharmacy (a patient or employee), is known to have COVID-19, they should contact their regional medical health officer.

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SELF-ISOLATION ADVICE FOR PHARMACY PROFESSIONALS

Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry has issued an order providing criteria and guidance for exempting essential workers from the self-isolation requirements for people who have travelled outside of Canada and returned on or after March 12, 2020.

Order of The Provincial Health Officer – Notice To People Who Have Been Or Have Likely Been Exposed To SARS-CoV-2
This guidance may also be appropriate for essential workers who are self-isolating as a result of other potential exposures to COVID-19.
 
Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians may be exempt from the 14-day self-isolation requirement after travel outside of Canada, if they are considered critical to the operation of their organization/pharmacy.  
 
Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians who have not been deemed critical to the operation of their pharmacy MUST observe the 14-day self-isolation requirement after returning from travel outside of Canada on or after March 12, 2020 or being otherwise exposed to COVID-19. 
 
Who is Considered “Critical Pharmacy Staff”?

Determination of whether or not an individual pharmacists or pharmacy technician is critical to the delivery of essential services is the responsibility of the pharmacy manager. 

If the pharmacy manager is in self-isolation or is otherwise unavailable, this determination is the responsibility of the pharmacy owner.

SAFELY PRACTICING AS CRITICAL PHARMACY STAFF

If you are essential to the provision of services at your pharmacy and have been given an exemption from the 14-day isolation protocol, you must take all possible measures to protect your colleagues, patients and the public, including regular self-monitoring and the use of a mask and gloves if you have any respiratory symptoms. 

ROLE OF PHARMACY MANAGERS AND OWNERS 

As leaders of organizations providing essential services, pharmacy managers and owners are responsible for ensuring that their staff follow the required 14-day isolation protocol after returning to Canada, unless their absence will make the delivery of essential services impossible. 

Pharmacy managers and owners must prioritize protective measures for any staff members that have been given an exemption.

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COVID-19 RISK-ASSESSMENT TOOLS

The College has developed a risk-assessment tool to assist pharmacy managers and owners in determining the necessary self-isolation measures needed for pharmacy staff affected by COVID-19. 

Before considering any action, please refer to most up-to-date guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada and the BC Centre for Disease Control which supersede the College’s recommendations:

(Click to enlarge)
College of Pharmacists of BC – Risk Assessment Tool for Pharmacy Staff Affected by COVID-19

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Unanticipated Temporary Closure

If a pharmacy will be closed temporarily due to unforeseen circumstances, the pharmacy manager is required to complete the steps included in section 18(2)(dd) of the PODSA Bylaws.

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Professional Development and Assessment Program (PDAP) Exemptions for CE Submissions 

Exemptions for the Remainder of 2020 Registration Renewals 

In response to the increasing demands on BC's pharmacies and pharmacy professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic, the College Board has granted Professional Development and Assessment Program (PDAP) exemptions for the remainder of 2020 registrant renewal deadlines (March 2020 to December 2020). 

Exemption for the Purposes of Reinstatement 

In order to provide much-needed assistance to pharmacies during this public health crisis, the College Board has granted PDAP exemptions for the purposes of reinstatement, to expedite the registration process for registrants who wish to re-instate and who have been in the 'non-practicing' or 'former' category for less than 90 days.

Pharmacy professionals in these categories are no longer required to complete their yearly CE requirements prior to applying for full registration. 

Moving forward, pharmacy professionals who receive these exemptions will complete their PDAP requirements prior to their 2021 registration renewal deadline. 

Learn More:

For questions related to PDAP, contact the College's Professional Development department at prodev@bcpharmacists.org

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Information for BC’s First Nations Communities

As of March 11, 2020, there have been no cases of COVID-19 reported in any of BC’s First Nations communities. 

In order to help BC’s First Nations Communities prepare for prevent further spread of the COVID-19, the First Nations Health Authority has released an information package, available below. 

Important Steps for Communities to Take – First Nations Health Authority

The FNHA will provide further updates as the situation evolves. 

Information from the First Nations Health Authority on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)
Information for First Nations Community Health Care Providers
Information for First Nations Community Leaders

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Questions and Contacts

Province of British Columbia

The province has created a phone service to provide non-medical information about COVID-19, including the latest information on travel recommendations and social distancing. Information is available in more than 110 languages, 7:30 am - 8 pm at 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319) or via text message at 604-630-0300.

Local Public Health Units

If you have questions about the novel coronavirus as a health care provider or for a health care facility, the BC CDC recommends you contact your local public health unit. 

To find your local health unit go to immunizebc.ca/finder.

Contacting your Regional Health Authority 

Questions about communicable diseases, environmental health and other public health issues should be directed to your regional health authority:

Fraser Health

  • Public: 604-587-3936 
  • Health Professionals: 1-866-990-9941 

Interior Health

Island Health

  • South Island: 1-866-665-6626
  • North Island: 1-866-770-7798

Northern Health

  • By Phone: 250-565-2990

Vancouver Coastal Health

  • By Phone: 604-675-3900
College of Pharmacists OF BC

For questions related to pharmacy practice and providing continuity of care for patients during an of emergency, contact the College’s practice support at practicesupport@bcpharmacists.org

First Nations Health Authority

Pharmacy professionals and patients can contact the First Nations Health Authority at 1-855-550-5454 to verify patient identification information.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Many practitioners are working remotely, away from their office, and are requesting to send prescriptions by email. Is this permitted?

Current community pharmacy bylaws allow for prescription authorization via written, verbal or faxed route. There is no provision to enable orders transmitted electronically such as via email or text in the community setting.

The College recognizes that these are exceptional times. Information is changing quickly and this could be addressed at some point. We are working closely with the Ministry of Health and other partners to support the response to this evolving situation as part of BC’s health system. The College will provide any updated information or guidance for pharmacy professionals as it becomes available.

Practitioners working away from office are signing prescriptions electronically. What are the permitted forms of electronic signatures?

The Pharmacy Operations and Drug Scheduling Act (PODSA) Bylaws define a “signature” on a record as meaning either a handwritten signature in ink, OR an electronic signature.

The PODSA Bylaws define an “electronic signature” as follows:

Information in electronic form that a person has created or adopted in order to sign a record, other than with respect to a prescription signed by a full pharmacist for the purpose of prescribing, that is in, attached to or associated with a record, is secure and is only reproducible and used by that person

Acceptable forms of signatures for the purposes of authenticating a prescription order include:

Pen-to-paper, physical signature in ink;

  • Digital image of a signature with unique identifiers such as:
    • Date stamp
    • Time stamp
    • Password protection

Signature stamps or, identical copy-and-pasted images of a signature that do not have unique identifiers, are not considered unique and cannot be used to authenticate a prescription order.

Should front-line community pharmacists and delivery staff use personal protective equipment (PPE)?

As front-line pharmacy staff may interact with patients who are possibly infected, they should take appropriate measures to protect themselves in order to decrease their risks of exposure to COVID-19. This includes confirming whether a patient is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and advising them not to enter the pharmacy; and practicing adequate social distancing.

The BC Pharmacy Association has created a public-facing poster asking patients with respiratory illness symptoms to wait outside the pharmacy, instead of going inside, to access service.

This poster is not intended to turn patients away without a thorough attempt to provide them the service they need.

Download the poster:

COVID-19 SIGNAGE - STOP AND CALL [ENGLISH] (UPDATED MARCH 18, 2020)

The following precautions from BC’s Provincial Health Officer are recommended to health workers who may have been exposed to the virus, but are essential to the deliver of patient care:

  • Self-monitor daily for signs and symptoms of illness
  • Follow Infection prevention and control protocols including diligent hand hygiene and the use of personal protective equipment when delivering patient care
  • Reduce close contact with other health care workers and avoid shared spaces where possible
  • Avoid close contact with others when travelling to and from work and between shifts
  • Self-isolate at home on days when not required at their workplace.

Additional precautions may vary by facility, health-care setting, or workplace based on the patient population being cared for and risk assessments made by regional or local public health officials, infection prevention and control experts.

The College is very aware of concerns related to personal protective equipment, and is continuing to work with the Ministry of Health, the BC Centre for Disease Control, the Provincial Infection Control Network of British Columbia, and the BC Pharmacy Association on this issue.

Pharmacists isolating at home would like to help. Are pharmacists permitted to work remotely?

PharmaNet conformance standards restrict access by pharmacists to within the licensed premises. Please contact PharmaNet for further inquiries.

Other clinical tasks such as counselling are not necessarily restricted to the physical site but confidentiality of patient information should be considered.

Storage of scheduled medications is only permitted on the licensed premises, therefore storage of medications or blister packs off-site would not be allowed.

Pharmacy staff are concerned about transmission surrounding Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT) and the accountability log. Can we forgo the patient signature to maintain social distancing?

Please take all precautions you can, including disinfection, restricting contact, etc. If you are making procedural changes in the best interest of your patients and your staff’s health, please ensure you document your temporary policy and that it is understood by all staff.

There are many things that the College are reviewing, in coordination with the Ministry of Health and Health Canada. Please continue to monitor our website and email communications for updates regarding this issue.

Are you aware of any drug shortages?

The College’s role in protecting public safety is focused on licensing and regulating pharmacists and pharmacy technicians and the pharmacies where they practice. While we are always concerned about drug shortages that can impact patient care, as a pharmacy practice regulator we are not involved with the availability of drugs in BC.

We are recommending no more than a one-month’s supply for most people in order to help reduce the potential strain on the drug supply chain. However, we would expect pharmacists to use their professional judgment based on each patient’s situation to determine what is appropriate. In particular, for patients with compromised immune systems or who have an increased risk of more severe outcomes from COVID-19 – they may require a longer supply to enable them to safely self-isolate at home.

We are receiving requests for delivery of Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT) from patients self-isolating. What are my responsibilities? How to we prevent transmission?

A pharmacist should confirm if their patient is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or are self-isolating prior to delivering medications. In addition, a pharmacist should consider how to maintain social distancing while delivering medications to a patient.

See Providing Continuity of Care for Patients with Substance Use Disorders

The BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) has issued some guidance that may be helpful as well. The BCCSU makes a point to note that “people who use drugs may have other health issues, including compromised immune systems, making them more vulnerable to infection and more likely to experience poor, potentially deadly, outcomes related to infection.”

Note also in the Code of Ethics:

In the event of either a patient emergency or a public emergency, registrants take appropriate action to provide care within their professional competence and experience.

Every possible solution should be explored in order to ensure continuity of treatment for patients on OAT. There are a number of ways that delivery may be able to continue, including maintaining distance during the delivery process and personal protective equipment.

From Professional Practice Policy #66 Policy Guide Methadone Maintenance Treatment:

As always the expectation is that pharmacists will practice in compliance with their legislative requirements, including the principles outlined in this Guide. It is understood however that pharmacy practice is not always ‘black and white’ and when navigating the ‘grey’ pharmacists must use sound professional judgment, ensuring that their decisions are made in the best interest of the patient and with appropriate collaboration, notification and most importantly, documentation.

Whatever solution you decide to implement to assist your patient, ensure that you document your rationale.


We recognizes that COVID-19 is a very serious health issue and we are acting quickly to help fight it. The College is collaborating with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC to find ways to minimize or reduce any unnecessary exposure to COVID-19 for patients and health professionals as it relates to controlled substances and opioid agonists treatment.

We are having to change hours due to staffing and workload. What should we do?

The requirements for changing hours of operation can be found in the Pharmacy Operations and Drug Scheduling Act Bylaws.

Please notify the public of the change and notify the registrar via your eServices profile. Please visit our website bcpharmacists.org/covid19 for further information, including guidance on pharmacy closures.

My pharmacist is insisting on dispensing only one month of my chronic medication which is resulting in me paying more. Is this allowed?

We are recommending no more than a one-month’s supply for most people in order to help reduce the potential strain on the drug supply chain. However, we would expect pharmacists to use their professional judgment based on each patient’s situation to determine what is appropriate. In particular, for patients with compromised immune systems or who have an increased risk of more severe outcomes from COVID-19 – they may require a longer supply to enable them to safely self-isolate at home.

Under ordinary circumstances, on a yearly prescription someone could, in theory, pay out-of-pocket for amounts over what either PharmaCare or a third-party insurer would reimburse. We are asking pharmacies to not accommodate these requests at this time to help reduce the risk of drugs shortages.

It would ultimately be a business decision with regards to dispensing fees and would be at the discretion of the individual pharmacy.

Pharmacists are receiving prescriptions and requests from patients for hydroxychloroquine. Should pharmacists dispense this medication for COVID-19?

There are significant concerns that antiretroviral medications used for HIV/AIDS, including lopinavir/ritonavir (Kaletra), and/or hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin and colchicine are being inappropriately prescribed and dispensed to prevent and/or treat possible COVID-19 infections.

It is important to note that at this time, there are no proven drug treatments for COVID-19. Physicians and nurse practitioners should not prescribe these therapies for COVID-19 outside the context of a clinical trial, and pharmacists should not dispense them if they do.

Inappropriate prescribing and dispensing of these medications threatens their supply and could prevent critical access for those who are in need of these medications for the treatment of chronic health conditions.

In order to ensure adequate supplies are available to patients who are most in need, the College of Pharmacists is asking pharmacists to remain vigilant in their assessment of these prescriptions. Information around COVID-19 is rapidly evolving and new recommendations and evidence may become available with time. However, pharmacists must ensure that decisions are based solely on the most current evidence available. This will ensure the best possible care for patients through this global health pandemic.

For the joint statement regarding this issue from the College of Pharmacists of BC, College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC and the BC College of Nursing Professionals, please see: Joint Statement on the Unproven Therapies for COVID-19

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