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Relaxing the 30-day limit for prescription drugs

Pharmacists have been working hard to manage drug supplies and make sure Albertans have access to the medications they need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of June 15, pharmacists in Alberta can begin to give out larger quantities again, up to a 100-day supply.

To handle the critical drug supply issues that affected Alberta and the world due to COVID-19, government recommended pharmacists dispense a maximum 30-day supply of prescription drugs, when appropriate. This made sure pharmacies could supply people with the prescriptions they needed. Because of this temporary measure and the evolving COVID-19 situation, conditions have improved.

“Pharmacists continue to work tirelessly on the front lines, and we thank them for their efforts. We are confident that now is the time to adjust our guidance to help Albertans make fewer visits to pharmacies and to support pharmacists in reducing the volume of prescriptions to fill.” Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health

The Alberta College of Pharmacy and the Alberta Pharmacists’ Association support this recommendation and encourage pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to begin to fill prescriptions as they normally would.

“The temporary 30-day medication supply recommendation has certainly helped to stabilize the majority of the drug supply chain. While we understand that some medication shortages continue to exist for certain medications, we are confident that pharmacists will be able to transition patients back to receiving three-month supplies for the majority of their medications where appropriate.” Margaret Wing, CEO, Alberta Pharmacists’ Association
“Drug shortages are an increasing problem for Canadians, and in some cases, COVID has made this worse. Therefore, as Alberta Health relaxes this policy, pharmacists should use their professional judgment to limit the dispensed quantities of specific drugs that continue to be short, and continue their commitment to appropriate drug therapy. We will continue to work with Alberta Health and other provincial and national partners to monitor drug shortages.” Greg Eberhart, registrar, Alberta College of Pharmacy

While supply levels appear to be returning to normal, some drugs are still in limited supply. Pharmacists should use their professional judgment and dispense a 30-day supply when necessary for specific drugs that continue to have shortages or supply chain issues. Pharmacists can use the drug shortage list posted on the Alberta Blue Cross website as a reference. If a medication dispensed is on the list, government-sponsored drug plan members will pay the maximum copayment of $8.

Government, industry, pharmacy organizations, and other health sector partners continue to monitor supply levels. If there is evidence that there isn’t enough supply, or that drugs are being stockpiled, government could re-introduce limits.

Quick facts  

  • Pharmacists in Alberta can begin to dispense larger quantities again, up to a 100-day supply, starting on June 15.

  • While supply levels may be stabilizing, supply pressures continue for certain drugs. Pharmacists are advised to use their judgment and dispense a maximum 30-day supply of drugs that are affected by shortages or supply chain issues.

  • For government-sponsored drug plan members, drugs unaffected by shortages or supply chain issues will be dispensed at the usual rates and rules. This means that government-sponsored drug plan members will pay the normal maximum $25 copayment.

  • Drugs that have shortages or supply chain issues can be subject to a discretionary 30-day supply limit. Government-sponsored drug plan members will continue to pay a maximum copayment of $8 for these drugs.

  • To find out if a specific drug is affected by a shortage or supply chain issue, people are encouraged to ask their pharmacist when they have their prescriptions filled.

  • Albertans can access information on specific drug shortages at the Drug Shortages Canada website, where companies are required to report all actual and anticipated shortages within specific time frames. Health Canada has also published a list of critical drugs that are in high demand or in shortage. A list will also be available for pharmacies on the Alberta Blue Cross website.

Provincial Press Release June 10, 2020 @ 12:10 PM


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