Can a pharmacist recommend medication?

Written by Shivam Patel, PharmD, BSPS, RPh | Posted July 14, 2020 | Updated May 03, 2023

Pharmacists are, indeed, your local drug experts. They are the most accessible healthcare providers for community questions about, not just meds but your overall health. The roles and responsibilities of pharmacists have evolved over the years: Today, we are much more than the local friendly face who dispenses your medications while you browse the aisle for your favorite pop. We ensure patients safely manage their prescriptions in clinical settings like hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities. In some states, we make decisions on patient drug therapy regimens by prescribing certain medications or making changes as needed.

All licensed pharmacists can recommend over-the-counter (OTC) drug products and provide consultation on prescription medication.

Depending on the institution and state in which they practice, pharmacists are also allowed to prescribe certain medications.

Pharmacy laws and regulations vary from state to state and continue to evolve nationwide.

If you need details, it’s best to check with your state board of pharmacy for the most updated regulations.

States Where Pharmacists Can Prescribe Medications

Almost all states allow pharmacists to prescribe medication, but the conditions for which they can vary greatly. There are many minor conditions and health problems for which pharmacists can prescribe. Such conditions include:

  • Acne
  • Allergic Rhinitis
  • Cold Sores
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Diaper Rash
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Mouth Ulcers
  • Yeast Infection
  • Urinary Tract Infection

In states such as California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, as well as in the District of Columbia, for instance, a pharmacist is allowed to prescribe birth control medication. People simply go to their local pharmacy, complete a questionnaire, have their blood pressure checked, and then the pharmacist assesses whether to prescribe and dispense oral contraceptives.

California pharmacists have a relatively broad ability to prescribe. They can prescribe nicotine replacement therapy, medications needed for travel (like promethazine and scopolamine patches), and request tests to monitor the effectiveness of drug therapies in patients with comorbidities like hypertension and diabetes.

Some states require clinical pharmacists that work in hospitals to have a CPA so they can make changes and work directly with patients to add new medication therapies.

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Can pharmacists prescribe antibiotics?

Depending on your state’s regulations, pharmacists can prescribe antibiotics for minor health problems -- but only if a diagnosis had already been made prior. A minor health problem is defined as a condition in which no warning signs or symptoms are present, and no lab or blood tests are required.

To prescribe antibiotics, state boards of pharmacy generally require a pharmacist to have obtained two of the following three certifications or trainings:

  • The pharmacist should be certified in their relevant area of practice like ambulatory care, critical care or oncology pharmacy.
  • The pharmacist should have completed at least one year of a residency program after graduating from pharmacy school.
  • The pharmacist should have had one year of experience in providing clinical care under a collaborative practice agreement (CPA) with a health care provider.
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What advice can a pharmacist give?

Your doctors, nurse practitioners, and other medical prescribers are the right folks to diagnose you and prescribe the treatments you need. They know a lot about prescription drugs. However, because new medications are constantly coming to market, collaboration among doctors and pharmacists is often necessary to ensure that you get the right treatment for your individual needs.

Pharmacists are more than drug dispensers. They are trained drug experts and provide useful medical information and tips in navigating your drug therapy. Here are some things your pharmacist can speak with you about:

  • Your full medication record
  • Harmful drug-drug interactions
  • Prescription refills when you have run out
  • How to take your medication safely and the side effects to monitor
  • How to optimally manage all your medications
  • How to save money on your medications
  • How your medication works in your body
  • Healthy lifestyle habits to improve the effectiveness of your medications
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What are the differences between pharmacists and doctors?

Doctors provide care for patients by diagnosing their medical conditions and creating the best treatment plan. A pharmacist’s primary duty is to ensure patients are safely and effectively on a treatment plan to get and stay healthy, Pharmacists also provide care for patients through immunizations and prescription consultations.

Pharmacists, doctors, and all other care providers are integral parts of a healthcare team. Each uses their unique skill set to provide the best patient care.

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Do pharmacists make and mix medicine?

Pharmacists can combine, alter, or mix ingredients to form medications tailored to individual patient needs. This process is called “compounding.” Your local pharmacists will often perform simple compounding on medications like antibiotics during which they mix a certain amount of water into the antibiotic powder in order to prepare your prescription.

Pharmacists also work in highly sterile compounding pharmacies to safely prepare custom medications that are not available at local pharmacies. Patients rely on compounding pharmacists to accurately prepare compounded medications for various reasons.

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When Patients Need a Compounding Pharmacist

  • When a patient can’t swallow a large pill and requires a liquid form that is not supplied by a manufacturer; this is common in infants and small children.
  • When a patient has allergies to certain ingredients (e.g., a dye) and requires the medication to be made without the allergens.
  • When a patient requires a custom flavor for an oral medication to help with adherence.
  • When medications need to be combined to make them easier to manage.
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