The Ontario government says a new service with pharmacists will soon help to reduce emergency room visits and hospital wait times across the province.

As of January 1, Ontario residents are now able to visit pharmacies for thirteen minor ailments which would normally need a prescription from a physician for treatment, as pharmacists can now use their knowledge and judgment to recommend over-the-counter medications for minor illnesses.

Although – local pharmacists in Kenora say they will need time to set up the new service, and residents are asked to contact their local pharmacy to see if they provide treatment options beforehand. A list of participating pharmacies in Ontario is not available.

Prescriptions that will be available at Ontario pharmacies include:

- Hay Fever (allergic rhinitis)
- Oral Thrush (candidal stomatitis)
- Pink Eye (conjunctivitis; bacterial, allergic and viral)
- Dermatitis (atopic, eczema, allergic and contact)
- Menstrual Cramps (dysmenorrhea)
- Acid Reflux (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
- Hemorrhoids
- Cold Sores (herpes labialis)
- Impetigo
- Insect bites and hives
- Tick bites (post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent Lyme disease)
- Sprains and strains (musculoskeletal)
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Sylvia Jones, says the government expects the new initiative and pharmacists’ Expanded Scope of Practice to help prevent about one-third of avoidable emergency room visits across the province, freeing up physicians to focus on more complex illnesses.

“Stopping by your local pharmacy for quick and easy access to treatment for some of your most common ailments increases your access to the care you need closer to home,” says Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

“Expanding the ability of pharmacists to provide care is one more way we’re putting people at the centre of our health care system, making it easier, faster and more convenient to access health care in their community,” she adds.

Of note, all other medications still require a prescription from a physician.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care adds Ontarians continue to have access to Health Connect Ontario, previously known as TeleHealth, a toll-free, 24/7 telephone service where patients can access medical advice from a Registered Nurse for free.

As well, pharmacies in Ontario also have access to Pfizer’s Paxlovid anti-viral COVID-19 treatment. The treatment is free if you’re considered eligible and are within 5 days of having COVID-19 symptoms – with a positive PCR or rapid antigen test as proof.

In northwestern Ontario – eligible pharmacies with Paxlovid include:

Kenora – Keewatin Family, Johnson’s, Walmart, No Frill’s, Medicine Shoppe, Pharmasave, Shoppers.
Dryden – Walmart, Shoppers, IDA and the Dryden Pharmacy.
Sioux Lookout – Rexall, Rx Drug Mart, Remedy’s Rx.
Red Lake – Red Lake Pharmacy.
Ear Falls – the Ear Falls Pharmacy.
Emo – Emo Drugs.
Ignace – Ignace Medical Pharmacy.
Fort Frances – Clinic Dispensary, Pharmasave, Rainy Lake FN Pharmacy, Safeway, Shoppers.

Clinical trials showed treatment with Paxlovid reduced the risk of hospitalization and death caused by COVID-19 by 89 per cent when the medications were started within three days of the beginning of symptoms, and by 85 per cent when started within five days.