Canadians support nurses dispensing drug samples

By Karine Charlebois

A majority of Canadians are in favour of nurse practitioners (NPs) and registered nurses (RNs) providing drug samples to patients across Canada, a national survey reveals.

The Hill and Knowlton Strategies Canada survey [PDF, 346.1 KB], released today, assessed how people across Canada would react to nurses accepting and dispensing medication samples and providing information on the use of medications. The positive response supports recommendations that the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) has put forward to the federal advisory council on the implementation of national pharmacare, chaired by Dr. Eric Hoskins, which is meeting with stakeholders, including CNA, at a roundtable consultation today in Ottawa.

Survey findings:

  • 63% support allowing qualified registered nurses to dispense drug samples.
  • 69% support allowing qualified nurse practitioners to dispense drug samples.
  • 80% support the creation of a federal public awareness campaign featuring nurses to educate the public on the threats of counterfeit medication.
  • 85% support a new federal initiative to provide nurses with more tools to educate patients on the benefits of deprescribing – dose reduction or the withdrawal of an inappropriate medication that is supervised by a health-care professional.

The council’s final report will be delivered to the federal ministers of health and finance in the spring of 2019. The survey shows the public supports CNA’s three recommendations to the council:

  1. That the minister of health introduce legislation to modernize the Food and Drugs Act to remove barriers that prevent NPs and RNs from dispensing drug samples
  2. That the minister of health create a public awareness campaign to bring attention to the scourge of counterfeit prescription drugs
  3. That the federal government lead efforts to educate health-care workers on the importance of medication safety and deprescribing

“As Canada’s health-care system continues to evolve, the survey results demonstrate that people across the country are ready for a change to improve access to prescription medication. Nurses work closely with patients and families and are exceptionally well positioned to educate patients on medication safety and deprescribing,” says CNA president Claire Betker. “CNA is looking forward to working with the federal government on a new national pharmacare program that allows nurses to have a greater role in dispensing prescription medication in a safe manner.”

Advisory Council launches online consultations on how to move forward toward a national pharmacare

Villeneuve is also a member of the steering committee for the Conference Board of Canada’s national pharmacare initiative. They will hold a summit in November and provide recommendations for the federal pharmacare council.

The following national groups support CNA’s recommendations

The Nurse Practitioner Association of Canada (NPAC), supports CNA’s recommendation to remove barriers that prevent NPs from dispensing drug samples. “NPAC supports legislation to permit nurse practitioners to dispense drug samples to patients to align with the current legislative authority to prescribe. Current legislation is a barrier to accessing medication samples and a barrier to equitable medication samples when it is deemed appropriate by a NP prescriber.” — Lenora Brace, MN, NP, President of NPAC

Canada’s leading advocacy association for older Canadians, CARP, supports CNA’s recommendation to educate health-care workers about medication safety and deprescribing: “Many older Canadians are taking medications they no longer need, or where the risks of usage outweigh the benefits. Eliminating unwarranted medications should be a key part of national pharmacare. A multidisciplinary approach to deprescribing would assist older Canadians to safely transition off of unwarranted medications.” — Wanda Morris, Vice President of Advocacy for CARP

We are inviting Canadians to share their support for CNA’s recommendations to the federal government’s advisory council on the implementation of national pharmacare. Get involved by visiting

Karine Charlebois is the Media and Communications Coordinator, Canadian Nurses Association.