Study: Canadians turning to local pharmacies for more health care

TORONTO — Patients in Canada increasingly are tapping into the healthcare knowledge, expertise and services available at their local pharmacy, with many of them talking to their pharmacist about one or more healthcare issues other than filling a prescription, according to the findings of a new Nielsen survey commissioned by the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores.

"Pharmacists are highly trained healthcare professionals whose expertise is still under-utilized by our healthcare system in Canada, and indeed around the world. That's all starting to change," stated Nadine Saby, CACDS president and CEO. "Governments recognize the valuable role pharmacy plays in ensuring patients get the right medication and are able to take it correctly. Now, by enabling and providing funding for new services like medication reviews, injections and immunizations, and prescription renewals without a doctor's visit, patients are reaping the benefits in more convenient and timely access to professional health advice and guidance.”

It's no longer enough for a pharmacy to be a place where medication and advice are dispensed — 96% of nearly 6,000 respondents surveyed believe that it's important for their pharmacist to play an increased role and work closely with their doctor to optimize care.

Furthermore, the study found that 72% of respondents indicated that they have talked to their pharmacist about health issues, beyond their prescribed medication. The most common subject was the treatment of minor ailments (41%), such as mild burns or insect bites. Advice on vitamins and supplements (26%) and dealing with adverse medication reactions (24%) also were commonly discussed.

Regionally, in Atlantic Canada — where Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have the nation's lowest per capita ratio of family physicians — patients are the most likely to turn to their pharmacist for advice on minor ailments (47%). Quebec patients lead the way in seeking information on adverse medication reactions (33%).

When it comes to managing diabetes, Canadians said they are taking some advantage of their pharmacy as an authoritative, accessible and convenient source of care. However, given the known burden of diabetes on patients, their families, the healthcare system and the Canadian economy overall, the CACDS stated that it was surprising that only 9% of respondents reported talking to their pharmacist about managing the disease.

When choosing a pharmacy, the top five considerations for Canadians choosing a pharmacy were:

  • Trust in the pharmacy staff's knowledge/advice (48%);

  • Location (convenience) (42%);

  • Pharmacist accessibility (32%);

  • Quick service (e.g., short wait time to fill prescriptions) (30%); and

  • Pharmacy services offered (e.g., medication counseling and blood-pressure monitoring) (17%).


More than 30% of respondents reported that they have been affected by drug supply shortages, often more than once, during the past year. On the front line of this issue, pharmacists, for the most part, are finding ways to minimize the impact on patients. Among respondents whose households have been affected by drug shortages, 54% say that their pharmacist was able to source their prescribed medication from another outlet at least once, and 35% said that at least once their pharmacist was able to provide them with an alternative drug, which, in most provinces, requires prescriber consent. Thirty-three percent of those who had an issue with drug shortages also reported that, at least once, they were not able to fill a prescription or find an alternative therapy.

"Pharmacists are going above and beyond to help manage drug supply issues and minimize their effect on patients. In fact, a study conducted by the Canadian Pharmacists Association in October 2010 estimated that, on average, individual pharmacists are spending 30 minutes per shift dealing with this problem," stated pharmacist Sandra Aylward, chair of the CACDS board of directors and VP professional and regulatory affairs with Sobeys Pharmacy Group. "It's both alarming and unfortunate that in spite of all of the work of pharmacists across the country, that the problem of drug shortages is not getting any better and is impacting so many Canadians."

The survey results are based on 5,878 Canadian household respondents to a Nielsen PanelViews online survey. The survey was conducted from Feb. 6 to 26, 2012, using a national sample, balanced by region and demographics.

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