Central Fill

5 Things to Know about Centralized Prescription Processing (Central Fill)

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Centralized prescription processing—also known as central fill—is a service one pharmacy provides to another to support the preparation and packaging of a prescription drug. Pharmacy Connection shares five things pharmacy professionals should know about this service.


1. A central fill pharmacy is an accredited community pharmacy

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The term central fill pharmacy is defined solely for the purpose of the Policy – Centralized Prescription Processing (Central Fill) and is not a separate class of accreditation. The policy permits an accredited community pharmacy to provide “central fill” services by entering into an agreement to prepare prescription orders for another accredited community pharmacy (defined as the originating pharmacy).

All pharmacies, regardless of the services provided, must meet the standards for accreditation and operation as defined in the Drug and Pharmacies Regulation Act (DPRA) and as established by the College.

Similarly, registrants must meet the Standards of Practice on all prescriptions regardless of the services provided. For example, pharmacists at the originating pharmacy must perform the patient assessment, review the prescription for therapeutic appropriateness, and provide counselling when the prescription is dispensed; registrants at the central fill pharmacy must ensure the prescription is technically accurate and record keeping is in accordance with the DPRA.


2. Patient consent must be obtained and documented

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The originating pharmacy must obtain and document express consent (which may be given verbally or in writing) from the patient or the patient’s agent to the fact that the prescription will be processed by a central fill pharmacy and that there will be a transfer of personal health information.

For transparency and to ensure record keeping requirements are met, the prescription or auxiliary label must clearly show when a prescription was prepared by the central fill pharmacy, including the date of preparation and the transaction/prescription number assigned.


3. Only patient-specific prescriptions can be processed by a central fill pharmacy

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The Policy – Centralized Prescription Processing (Central Fill) permits a central fill pharmacy to act as an agent of the originating pharmacy to prepare and package prescription orders. Legislation, such as the federal Food And Drug Regulations, C.01.001 and the provincial Drug and Pharmacies Regulation Act, s1(1), clearly indicates that a prescription is patient-specific. There must be an auditable and traceable method to identify which prescriptions were transmitted to the central fill pharmacy for processing.

If central fill is being used for compounded preparations, Health Canada’s Policy on Manufacturing and Compounding Drug Products in Canada (POL-0051) does not permit a preparation to be compounded in bulk, or in anticipation of a prescription, for the originating pharmacy.


4. The College must be notified about each central fill agreement between two pharmacies

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There must be an agreement in place between the Designated Managers of the pharmacies that fulfills the criteria outlined in the Policy – Centralized Prescription Processing (Central Fill).

The College must be notified of the agreement, or of changes to an existing agreement, within seven days using the Central Fill Notification Form. A copy of the agreement does not need to be sent, however should be readily available upon request.


5. Pharmacies using central fill must assess their risk and accept their shared accountability

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A central fill arrangement adds complexity to the overall dispensing process which introduces incremental risk for an incident to occur. As such, the Policy – Centralized Prescription Processing (Central Fill) requires Designated Managers to establish sufficiently detailed policies and procedures to mitigate these risks, ensure the entire process is auditable and traceable, and to maintain a quality assurance program.

When central fill is used for compounded preparations, the degree of potential risk is even greater, and it is difficult – if not impossible – to visually inspect the final preparation for accuracy prior to dispensing. The Designated Manager of the originating pharmacy has an obligation to ensure the prescription – even though prepared by another accredited pharmacy – is of acceptable quality and safe for dispensing to the patient. Due diligence is necessary to ensure the central fill pharmacy meets all applicable NAPRA compounding standards by conducting a comprehensive review of their operations, both prior to utilization of this service, and on an ongoing basis.

Should a formal complaint arise, the dispensing process as a whole, and the conduct of all registrants involved, may be subject to the subsequent investigation.

REMINDER: Prescriptions for controlled substances (narcotics, controlled drugs, benzodiazepines and other targeted substances) cannot be processed by central fill. Federal regulations only permit the sale/provision of controlled substances from one pharmacy to another in specific situations (e.g., an emergency). Issuance of a dealer’s license issued by the Federal Minister of Health would be required to sell/provide/send a controlled substance in a central fill arrangement.

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