A Patient’s Guide to Minor Ailments in Ontario

Pharmacists in Ontario are now able to prescribe medications for 13 minor ailments. As a patient you might be wondering: what exactly are minor ailments and what can you expect from a pharmacist’s minor ailment assessment? In this blog post, we hope to answer all of the common questions you might have about minor ailments.

As of January 1, 2023, regulations in Ontario now allow pharmacists to prescribe medications for 13 minor ailments. This is exciting news for patients, as it means you will now have a more convenient and timely way to access healthcare for these common conditions. But what exactly are minor ailments and what can you, as a patient, expect from a pharmacist’s minor ailment assessment? We hope to answer all of the common questions you might have about minor ailments.

What is a minor ailment?

A minor ailment is a health condition that can be self-diagnosed and managed with minimal treatment. They are:

  • Usually a short-term condition
  • Lab results aren’t usually required
  • Low risk that treatment will mask underlying conditions
  • No indicators that could suggest a more serious condition
  • Minimal follow-up is required

Why should I see a pharmacist for my minor ailment?

Although minor ailments can be managed with minimal treatment, pharmacists are medication experts that have the training and clinical expertise necessary to prescribe medications and recommend self-care strategies.

Getting care from a pharmacist is convenient, accessible, and efficient; your local pharmacists are ready to assist you with your healthcare needs!

What ailments are eligible for pharmacist assessment?

Cold sores, heartburn/acid reflux, insect/tick bites, muscle aches and pains, skin rash, urinary tract infections, hay fever, hemorrhoids, menstrual cramps, oral thrush, skin infection, and pink eye

What can I expect during an assessment?

During a minor ailment assessment, a pharmacist will:

  • Collect personal health information (e.g. health card information, health history, etc.)
  • Rule out symptoms that require further medical attention

After the assessment is complete, a pharmacist may:

  • Recommend non-drug strategies to relieve your symptoms  (e.g. hot/cold gel packs, message, exercise, physical therapy, etc.)
  • Provide you with an action plan on the next steps of your treatment
  • Provide a prescription drug to treat the condition
  • Refer you for further medical evaluation

If you have a valid Ontario health card, minor ailment assessments by a pharmacist are at no cost to you. Patients without an Ontario Health Card are still eligible for assessments, but there will be an approximate cost of $20 for the assessment, cost varying by pharmacy.

How can I book a minor ailment consultation?

There are a few ways you can book a minor ailment consultation:

  • Call your pharmacy and ask them to book a minor ailment consultation for you. Your pharmacy may book your appointment over the phone or provide additional directions on how to book these appointment online. If you are booking your appointment over the phone, your pharmacist will ask you about the type of ailment you want to book an appointment for, what time and date you would like to come in, and some personal information.
  • Simply go to your pharmacy and ask the pharmacist for a walk-in minor ailment assessment. Note that, if the pharmacy is busy, there might be a wait time before you can have your assessment.

Additional FAQ

What if I don’t fully know what condition I have?

  • It is okay if you are not confident about your condition.  That is what the pharmacist is there for; to assess if you meet the criteria.

Do I have to fill the prescription with the same pharmacy?

  • No, you can take it to any pharmacy.

If I receive a prescription during my assessment, does OHIP cover the cost of the medication?

  • No, OHIP does not cover the cost of the medication. However, the prescription can be billed through your insurance if applicable.

Do pharmacists have adequate training to assess my condition? Why is it only now they can start prescribing?

  • Pharmacists are medication experts. Through their clinical training and knowledge, they are healthcare professionals qualified to prescribe medications to treat minor ailments.  Although this service is new to Ontario, pharmacists have been prescribing for minor ailments in other provinces since 2011. Thus, you can be sure that your pharmacist has the expertise to meet your minor ailment needs.
  • For more detail, check out the Ontario Collage of Pharmacists FAQ about Minor Ailments.

Are there usually follow-up appointments?

  • There are follow-up appointments; how long after the initial appointment is dependent on the minor ailment. Note that follow-ups are often short and can often be done on the phone.

What is the cost of follow-up appointments?

  • There is no cost to follow-ups; it is included in the initial assessment cost (if there is a cost).

Can I see a pharmacist for Minor Ailments if I already have a family doctor?

  • Yes, your ability to see a pharmacist for Minor Ailments is not dependent on whether you have a family doctor or not.