Supporting Innovation in Pharmacy for a Healthier Canada

Vote of confidence for minor ailments

August 2014 - Pharmacy customers appear to be overwhelmingly supportive of pharmacists assessing and prescribing for minor ailments, according to a recent study of the government-funded minor-ailments program in Saskatchewan.1

The study surveyed 125 customers who had received an assessment and prescription for a minor ailment at 90 participating pharmacies. Virtually all of the participants agreed they would return to the same pharmacist for advice on another ailment (with an agreement level of 3.8 out of a possible 4.0 for “strongly agree”). Agreement was also strong (3.4) when asked if they would seek advice from any pharmacist for another minor condition.

Participants were most likely to present with cold sores (34%), insect bites (20%) and seasonal allergies (18%). The majority were women (66%) and they were most likely between the ages of 30 and 39 years (22%) or 50 and 59 years (21%). Just over half (55%) indicated they had seen another healthcare professional for the condition at some point, and at the time of interaction with the pharmacist their symptoms most likely had been present for just one day (30%).

Seven times out of 10 (72%), the customer approached the pharmacist for help. When these respondents were asked why they approached a pharmacist rather than a physician, their top reasons were: trust in the pharmacist for minor ailments (26%), the feeling that the condition was not serious enough for a doctor (20%) and an unwillingness to wait at a medical clinic (15%).

After the assessment, participants strongly agreed that the pharmacist explained how to use the medicine (3.8), asked appropriate questions (3.8) and spent enough time to determine the best treatment (3.7). Four out of five said their condition had completely resolved or significantly improved, and only 3% reported they later saw a physician as well.

The study comprised phase one of an extensive research initiative by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan, scheduled for completion in 2016.

1. Mansell K, Bootsman N, Kuntz A, Taylor J. Evaluating pharmacist prescribing for minor ailments. Int J of Pharm Pract 2014; June: epub.