Do I need a prescription for insulin?

If you are a diabetic you may have heard conflicting information on whether or not you require a prescription to pick up insulin from a pharmacy.

When isn’t a prescription required?

In Alberta, insulin can be sold to a patient without a prescription. Insulin is in the Schedule 2 drug class. Schedule 2 medications can only be sold in a pharmacy, and they must be kept behind the pharmacy counter. In order to sell a schedule 2 medication, the pharmacist must set up a complete patient profile and ensure the medication is appropriate for the patient.

While insulin is considered schedule 2, it is in this schedule in case of emergency. This means that if you are traveling and run out of insulin, or can’t get in to see your doctor, the pharmacist can maintain your current insulin therapy without sending you to a walk in clinic or emergency. The pharmacist must document the sale of the insulin on your profile, along with any information that helped the pharmacist determine the insulin was appropriate.

When is a prescription required?

The majority of the time (except in the case of an emergency) a pharmacist will not sell insulin without a prescription. The reasons for this are as follows.

  1. Your drug plan will not cover the cost of the insulin without a prescription from your doctor.
  2. Your doctor, or a pharmacist with additional prescribing rights must originally write a prescription for a particular type of insulin and at a certain dosage.
  3. You should have a blood test every 3-6 months in order to determine if the insulin you are using is working as it should be. Following the blood test you should see your doctor to see if any dose adjustments are necessary.

Diabetes is a progressive disease and requires ongoing monitoring and medication adjustments to ensure optimal therapy. If you think your diabetes is not optimally managed speak with your pharmacist or doctor today!

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