It was March 4 last year when pharmacists were granted new authorities, allowing them to prescribe treatment for certain ailments and provide refills of therapies for chronic illnesses.
It's Pharmacist Awareness Week from March 4 to 10, and following that legislation, it's important to ensure that everybody knows exactly what the pharmacist can do for them now.
As it turns out, a lot of the things they do now are similar to what they've always been doing, but just in a little bit different way, said Brad Cooper, a pharmacist at Pharmasave in Estevan.
"It's important to maintain that continuity of care," said Cooper, adding that they communicate a lot with family physicians to ensure there is a full medical record.
When people can't get in to see their family doctors in a timely manner, their only recourse was to go to the emergency room before the new legislation was introduced.
"Often we're helping people out of a jam, people who need just enough to hold them until their next appointment," which he noted can be several weeks in Estevan.
"Now they can actually get access to (their medication). Rather than burdening the system by going to the hospital for a cold sore, it saves time and money."
With the new rules in place, pharmacists have the opportunity to more closely fulfil their intended role.
"It's allowing us to do more of the things that we're trained to do," added Larry Preddy, pharmacist at Henders Drugs.
The list of prescription powers, which currently includes cold sores, acne and insect bites, is expected to be added to, noted Preddy, and the plans to do so began before the original legislation was first introduced.
"You can't manage if you don't measure," Cooper said of the monitoring the new system has undergone in the past year. With all pharmacists involved in the process, the Pharmacists' Association of Saskatchewan has looked at how things have progressed in the first year in order to see how best to expand the program.
Cooper noted that they can also adjust a previous prescription, which may be necessary, particularly in children who grow quickly, and as they gain weight may need a different dosage.
The pharmacist's prescribing powers are something Preddy would like more people to be aware of. He said a lot of people picked up on the renewal process pretty quickly, but fewer have a good understanding of what can be prescribed.
Because of the shortage of family doctors in the Estevan area, Cooper said he has noticed more people take advantage of stepping into the pharmacy for a refill than what he's heard from pharmacists in larger centres.
"There is a higher utilization of it in Estevan," he said adding, "We're there to supplement, not replace their primary doctor. It's all about the patient getting better access to health care."
As far as Pharmacy Awareness Week is concerned, neither pharmacist said they had anything particular planned to recognize the special week. Cooper noted that they may do something after their re-opening, but in general they like to highlight the pharmacist's involvement in the community.
"We like to think Pharmacy Awareness Week is everyday," said Preddy. "And we put forward our best effort everyday, not just for one week."