Insights into OPA’s Professional Affairs Department: Pharmacy Student Experience

As someone who is interested in exploring non-traditional career paths in the pharmacy field, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the Ontario Pharmacists Association (OPA), Canada’s largest advocacy organization for pharmacy professionals. I witnessed firsthand OPA’s commitment to representing the interests of pharmacy professionals in Ontario and prioritizing the profession’s evolving needs. I also gained invaluable insights into pharmacy advocacy, policy work, and the process for the development of practice supports. Join me as I share a brief glimpse into my 16-week journey working as a pharmacy student with the Professional Affairs department at OPA.

I joined OPA in January 2023, which marked a significant and exciting time for the pharmacy profession as Part A pharmacists, pharmacy students and interns were enabled to assess and, if necessary, prescribe for 13 minor ailments after a decade of incredible advocacy work. Through attending various meetings, I was able to hear different perspectives on the uptake of the minor ailments program and ways that OPA could continue supporting pharmacy professionals on the frontlines to effectively implement this service into their different practices with consideration of the unique needs of each pharmacy. I worked closely with the OPA team to develop a minor ailments webpage to celebrate the successes achieved, to highlight the associated advocacy work done to date in addition to future work that is being conducted, and to share valuable tools and resources. 

Supreet Headshot

Supreet Kaur Kapoor

PharmD Student

I also had the opportunity to participate in the development of new practice tools aimed at supporting pharmacy professionals in their expanded role. I was excited to hear about the government’s interest in adding six more minor ailments to scope, as well as the opportunity to explore other potential conditions that can be included. All of this will continue to improve patient access to care, reduce the burden on emergency rooms, and alleviate strain on the health care system.

Another change that happened during my work term was the implementation of the Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) program’s Biosimilars Policy on March 31, 2023, which requires all ODB eligible recipients receiving coverage for certain originator biologics to transition to their biosimilar versions. Pharmacists are in a unique position to provide valuable support to patients during this transition period, such as educating on the safety and efficacy of biosimilars in addition to addressing any concerns or questions patients may have as this change can be overwhelming for patients, especially for those who have been stable on their biologic drug. Recognizing that other provinces have already implemented a similar policy, I conducted a scan for available resources on biosimilars that could be used by pharmacy professionals to help patients smoothly transition to their biosimilar drugs. I compiled a comprehensive list of resources which includes topics such as general overviews about biosimilars, counselling resources that provide valuable tips for communicating with patients, biosimilar drug comparison charts, patient-friendly resources, and information about patient support programs. The scan also enabled us to identify gaps in the available resources, prompting us to create additional tools and resources to meet the needs of pharmacy professionals. One of the identified gaps was with respect to a resource to meet the documentation requirements to support claims for the Biosimilar Support Fee. To address this, I created a biosimilars documentation form that could be used as a general template to help pharmacists document the necessary information required for claim submission, while also meeting their professional obligations with respect to record-keeping. Another gap involved the need for a tool to facilitate the process of obtaining a new biosimilar prescription for patients affected by this policy as pharmacists cannot adapt prescriptions for originator biologics to biosimilar drugs. The prescriber prescription request form was created to support effective communication with the patient’s prescriber to ensure uninterrupted treatment for patients.


In addition to developing tools and resources to support pharmacy practice, I was also given the opportunity to contribute to advocacy efforts on current issues impacting the pharmacy profession. I conducted jurisdictional scans to support work on potential solutions to pharmacy reconciliation, such as formulary management and MedsCheck modernization. Additionally, I conducted a jurisdictional scan on minor ailments to explore other potential conditions that could be added to scope. These experiences reinforced the importance of conducting background research to contribute to ensuring that proposals and recommendations made are feasible and supported by evidence. I also had the opportunity to participate in various meetings with other pharmacy professionals and organizations where I actively engaged in discussions about pharmacy practice and future initiatives.

As I continue my journey to becoming a pharmacist, I am confident that my 16 weeks at OPA will have a lasting impact on my personal growth and pharmacy career. Working with a team of knowledgeable professionals was an enriching experience that allowed me to hone my research, analysis, and communication skills, while reinforcing my interest in this potential career path and my commitment to advocating for the pharmacy profession. I am excited to see the profession continue to grow, and it is reassuring to know that with OPA’s solid commitment to advancing the role of pharmacy professionals to optimize patient care and to support the sustainability of the health care system, the future of pharmacy looks bright.

I am glad to have had the opportunity to work with OPA, and I encourage students to stay engaged with our association to help ensure that the student perspective is heard. As OPA members, we have access to valuable resources and tools that can help to enhance our learning, improve our knowledge, and keep us informed about changes occurring in the profession. These can in turn help us to be more effective and knowledgeable healthcare professionals who are better equipped to serve our communities. Whether through advocacy, education, or networking opportunities, our continued engagement with OPA can help inform the work of the association, ultimately shaping the future of the pharmacy profession in Ontario.

Written by:

Supreet Kaur Kapoor

PharmD Student, Class of 2025, University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy

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