Elise Apolloni shares what she learnt on her trip to ‘community pharmacy nirvana’

In search of what was bigger and better in the world of community pharmacy, I decided to use a generous grant from Symbion for being the PSA 2017 Early Career Pharmacist of the Year to go on an adventure to Canada, aka “community pharmacy nirvana”.

The experience was unforgettable, and the company pretty fantastic, but most of all we learnt a lot and made some lifelong pharmacy family members.

Joined by my husband Dean Apolloni and colleague Kayla Lee, we were on the search for the ‘next best thing’, and while we learnt a lot of great things, we were really grateful to see that Australia is not too far behind at all!

Here is what we found during our trip:

Much of the professional service offerings are the same

In some provinces, pharmacists can order pathology etc. Basically, whoever orders it follows it up with the patient, but other than that, we found a lot of similarities. MedChecks, Clinical Intervention recording, the standard suite of chronic disease state management, was largely what we see here in Australia.

Inside a Canadian pharmacy. Source: Supplied.

Inside a Canadian pharmacy. Source: Supplied.

The PBS is not something that exists there!

This really was profoundly shocking to us! We were in a ‘great debate’ at a conference about this topic. We were gob-smacked to see a general uneasiness about the idea of universal medicines pricing and access. Each province has its own arrangements and systems.

The PBS really is a world-class system, it certainly made us grateful for not needing to contact heaps of insurers or third parties to cover the cost of medicine in our day-to-day work!

Elise and Kayla. Source: Supplied.

Elise and Kayla. Source: Supplied.

Pharmacist prescribing is real

This was probably one of the more enlightening aspects of the role of Canadian community pharmacists. They, depending on their provincial location, are able to prescribe within a limited formulary within their scope of practice. Incredibly helpful, and an extra ‘medicines arsenal’ they had to their disposal.

Of note was a study released at the Canadian Pharmacists Conference which detailed the role of pharmacists in treating uncomplicated UTIs. The results were staggering, and there was an arm comparing the prescribing habits of pharmacists as opposed to doctors.

Unsurprisingly, pharmacists almost always complied with the recommended antibiotic guidelines unlike their GP counterparts, and received feedback of a high satisfaction level from the patients who used the service.

The opioid crisis is a BIG deal over there

It was devastating to hear stories of families that had lost loved ones to the opioid crisis. Obviously we have similar issues here in Australia, but the scale of the problem was enormous comparatively in Canada.

Codeine was still available over-the-counter in large quantities, and quantities of prescribed opioids were significantly higher than what I think the average Australian pharmacist is used to dispensing here.

Info pamphlets in Canadian pharmacy. Source: Supplied.

Info pamphlets in Canadian pharmacy. Source: Supplied.

Pharmacy ownership is different, and not for the better

We were quite surprised to see the amount of corporate pharmacies and dispensaries inside supermarkets during our travels.

In fact, all three of us were quite ill while we were away and we found it quite difficult to talk to pharmacists in the supermarket style pharmacies – there was no-one wandering around to offer assistance or advice like we are used to here!

Having said that, we were lucky enough to also see a handful of small-to-medium community pharmacies too that reminded us a lot more of home.

Elise Apolloni is Managing Partner at Capital Chemist Wanniassa. She was named Telstra Australian Young Business Woman of the Year 2017 and PSA 2017 Early Career Pharmacist of the Year.