Pharmacy and Pharmacist FAQs

This is information collected from the Alberta College of Pharmacists.

Pharmacist and pharmacy FAQs

What is the Alberta College of Pharmacists?

We are the governing and regulatory body for the pharmacy profession, and take responsibility for safe, effective, responsible pharmacy practice. The Alberta College of Pharmacists:

  • develops and enforces pharmacy practice standards and guidelines;
  • ensures only qualified pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are licensed, all pharmacists and pharmacy technicians maintain their knowledge and skills at the highest level possible, and all pharmacies provide a practice environment that supports quality practice and patient safety;
  • manages the complaints resolution process related to pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacies;
  • participates in local, provincial and national forums when health policy is debated; and
  • promotes patient-centered, collaborative health care that best uses the skills and knowledge of health care professionals.


What does pharmacist prescribing mean?

Pharmacist prescribing is most often be done in partnership with another health professional, after a diagnosis or decision for treatment has been made. Pharmacist prescribing does not replace the need for Albertans to see their doctor.

In most instances, a pharmacist exercises the authority to alter a dosage or formulation or regimen to ensure that the prescribed therapy best meets the needs of the patient. A simple example is when a pharmacist changes a prescription from pills to a liquid form of the same medication so it is easier for you to take.

Pharmacists may also provide a refill of a drug that you take regularly, as long as the pharmacist determines that it is in your best interest to continue therapy.

In both these cases, the pharmacist must have a good working relationship with you and enough information about your health conditions and treatment goals before adapting or refilling a prescription.


What issues affect how or if a pharmacist prescribes?

  • Pharmacist prescribing is dependent on good communication between the pharmacist, you, and the other health professionals on your health care team. Your health and safety always come first.
  • Only pharmacists on our clinical register are eligible to prescribe.
  • Each pharmacist limits their prescribing to their areas of professional competence.
  • To administer drugs by injection, pharmacists must be certified through programs approved by the college.
  • Pharmacists only prescribe if they have sufficient information to decide on safe and effective drug therapy.


How do Albertans benefit from pharmacist prescribing?

Albertans have better access to their drug therapy and will benefit from greater use of pharmacists’ knowledge and skills.


Pharmacists are often the most accessible health care professional and are the experts on medications. Pharmacist prescribing is done in cooperation with another health professional. Therefore, as pharmacists work with other health professionals, Albertans benefit from the combined expertise of a health care team. 


What can pharmacists prescribe?

Pharmacists have the authority to prescribe all drugs except narcotics and controlled substances.


Before a pharmacist will prescribe, they have to know you and your health condition and be competent to prescribe for your health condition.


Do pharmacists need additional training to prescribe?

Pharmacists do not need additional training to adapt or renew a prescription, or to prescribe in an emergency. Most pharmacists have five years of university education in drugs and drug therapy. Pharmacists are able to take responsibility for drug therapy decisions.


In order to initiate drug therapy or change drug therapy for ongoing management, a pharmacist requires additional prescribing authorization from the Alberta College of Pharmacists.

Absolutely. Pharmacists’ authorities to prescribe and administer drugs by injection are designed to complement, not replace, the requirement for Albertans to see their physician.


Why do pharmacists need my personal information?

  • Information about a patient’s health condition and the other drugs he or she is taking is vital in the drug-therapy decision-making process.
  • Pharmacists are required to maintain patient records to support drug therapy decisions. All of the information that is collected is maintained in a secure and confidential manner.
  • Personal information such as address, telephone number, and personal health number are all part of a patient’s record in the provincial electronic health record (EHR). When a pharmacist submits information about a prescription to the EHR, that information should match the data that is already in the system to ensure complete and accurate records.
  • Other health care professionals will use the information to make health care decisions.


Why does the pharmacist ask me questions about my medical conditions? Do they really need to know that?

Your pharmacist’s main responsibility is to find, fix and prevent drug-related problems. Many medications can be used for more than one medical condition. To ensure that your medications are appropriate for you and that you will get the most benefit from them, your pharmacist has to understand why you are taking the medications.


What safeguards are in place for pharmacist practice?

Pharmacists are health care professionals with more training about drugs and their effects on the body than any other health care provider. Each pharmacist must complete annual continuing education in drug therapy. In addition, every pharmacist is required to practise under the standards and legislation for their profession and to adhere to a professional code of ethics.


Can I ask my pharmacist about over-the-counter drugs, supplements and herbal remedies?

Yes. Please talk to your pharmacist. Too few patients take advantage of the pharmacist’s knowledge about non-prescription drugs and alternative therapies.


Why does it take so long to get my prescription filled?

Filling a prescription is more than just counting pills. When pharmacists fill prescriptions, they check the medication, dose and instructions to make sure they are right for you. They review your confidential care record to check for possible problems. Your pharmacist enters the details of your current prescription onto your record of care. Your pharmacist will also talk to you about:

  • why you have been prescribed this particular drug,
  • how and when to take your medication,
  • what potential side effects you may need to watch for, and
  • how to store your medication.


Is everyone who works behind the pharmacy counter a pharmacist?

No. In many pharmacies, pharmacy technicians assist with the day-to-day technical functions, so that pharmacists can focus their time on patient care responsibilities. Pharmacy technicians are often involved not only with counting pills and running the cash register but also with preparing drugs, entering drug orders, controlling pharmacy inventory, maintaining the function of complex equipment and obtaining insurance authorizations. You may also see cashiers, stock people, pharmacy students, and volunteers. All of these people must maintain the confidentiality of all patient information received in the pharmacy.



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