FAQ

Prescribing activities can be grouped into three general categories:

  • Initial access prescribing—prescribing when a patient chooses a pharmacist for advice about and treatment of minor, self-limiting or self-diagnosed conditions, about wellness programs, or in urgent or emergency situations
     
  • Prescription modification—modifying a prescription written by another prescriber to alter dosage, formulation, regimen or duration of the prescribed drug, or provide a therapeutic alternative to improve drug therapy or provide continuity of therapy
     
  • Comprehensive drug therapy management—initiating, maintaining, modifying or changing drug therapy based on referral from another health provider who has made the diagnosis or upon the request of the patient upon receiving a diagnosis.
  • Pharmacists prescribing is dependent on good communication between the pharmacist, the patient, and the other health professionals on the patient's health care team. Patient health and safety always come first.
  • Each pharmacist must limit their prescribing to their areas of professional competence.
  • Pharmacists must meet additional specific criteria set by the college to be authorized to initiate new drug therapy and/or to manage ongoing therapy.
  • Pharmacists will only prescribe if they have sufficient information to make decisions on safe and effective drug therapy.
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. 
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.

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.
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. 
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.
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.

ACP regulates prescribing by pharmacists through the additional prescribing authorization process that allows only qualified pharmacists to prescribe. 

Pharmacists must participate in ongoing professional development and the college’s competence program throughout their careers. This includes annually completing a professional development log for review, using the self-assessment tool to identify strengths and opportunities for further development, and participating in practice assessments.

Pharmacists must also adhere to the practice framework developed by the college, which includes practice policies, standards of practice, and a code of ethics.
Pharmacists are not paid for writing prescriptions; however the Alberta Pharmacists’ Association (RxA), Alberta Blue Cross, and the Alberta government have an agreement whereby pharmacists can be paid for the assessment of patients that leads to a prescribing decision. For more information, please contact RxA.

Pharmacists may prescribe all Schedule 1 drugs and blood products. There are no lists of drugs; instead, all pharmacists are expected to limit their prescribing to situations where they have an adequate understanding of the patient, the condition being treated, and the drug being prescribed.

Pharmacists may not prescribe narcotics, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, anabolic steroids and other drugs regulated by the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. 

(Section 16, Pharmacists Profession Regulation; Standard 11, Standards of Practice for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians)

All pharmacists registered on the clinical register may prescribe by adapting a prescription or may prescribe in an emergency.
 
Pharmacists who have been granted an additional prescribing authorization may also prescribe to initiate drug therapy and/or manage ongoing drug therapy.

(Sections 16(1)(e to h), (3) and (4), Pharmacists Profession Regulation)

Pharmacists must provide the following information:

  • notification that they have prescribed (or adapted a prescription),
  • the type and amount of the drug prescribed,
  • the rationale for prescribing the drug,
  • the date the drug was prescribed, and
  • instructions given to the patient.
(Standards 11.9, 13.6, 14.4 and 14.10, Standards of Practice for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians)

The Alberta College of Pharmacists (ACP) is the governing and regulatory body for the pharmacy profession in Alberta. We govern pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and pharmacies in order to support and protect the public’s health and well-being.

We:

  • register pharmacists and pharmacy technicians;
  • license pharmacies;
  • measure and support the competence of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians;
  • participate in local, provincial, and national forums when health policy is debated;
  • develop and enforce pharmacy practice standards and guidelines; and
  • resolve complaints about pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and pharmacies.

ACP makes sure pharmacy care is appropriate, effective, and safe for you and your family.

Every year thousands of people are admitted into hospitals because they did not take their medication properly.

Please talk to your pharmacist. Do not leave the pharmacy or hospital until you fully understand how to use your medication properly.

What do you need to know to take your medication safely?

  1. Why am I taking this medication?
  2. How and when should I take this medication?
  3. Is there anything I should or should not eat or drink while I am taking this medication?
  4. What should I do if I miss my dose?
  5. How will I remember to take my medicine?
  6. I have allergies. Is it safe for me to take this medication?
  7. Are there any side effects I should watch for?
  8. What should I do if I don’t feel well after I take my medication?
  9. Will my medication interact with other drugs, vitamins, or herbal supplements?
  10. Is it safe to drink alcohol or drive while I am taking this medication?
  11. Can I take this medication if I am pregnant or breast-feeding?
  12. How will I know if this medication is working?
  13. If I feel better can I stop taking it?
  14. Where should I keep my medication?

Filing a complaint

The Alberta College of Pharmacists encourages patients who have concerns about the pharmacy services they receive to discuss the matter directly with the pharmacist.

If necessary, patients may ask to speak to the pharmacy licensee. Every pharmacy has a licensee who is required to administer quality assurance processes within the pharmacy and is responsible for the policies and procedures at the pharmacy. The Alberta College of Pharmacists requires pharmacy licensees to respond directly to patient concerns.

If you are still concerned after speaking with the pharmacist and/or pharmacy licensee, you may speak to a member of our Complaints Department to confirm if the Alberta College of Pharmacists has jurisdiction in the matter, and to discuss how best to resolve your concerns.

The Alberta College of Pharmacists responds to concerns about:

  • a pharmacist’s or pharmacy technician's practice, or
  • a pharmacy's operations.

The Alberta College of Pharmacists does not regulate pharmacy matters pertaining to customer service, prescription pricing/refunds, or compensation. If your concerns relate to one of these areas, in addition to speaking directly with the pharmacy licensee, you may wish to contact the pharmacy’s corporate office.

Filing a complaint

If after speaking with a member of the Complaints Department, it is determined that a formal complaint is necessary, you would take the following steps:

  1. Obtain a copy of the Complaint Reporting Form by calling the college office at 1-877-227-3838 or 780-990-0321.
  2. Send your completed, dated, and signed report to the college: 

Attn: Complaints Department
Alberta College of Pharmacists
1100-8215 112 St. NW
Edmonton, AB   T6G 2C8

The Health Professions Act requires that complaints be submitted in writing and signed.  You may mail or fax us a letter, or submit your complaint on our Complaint Reporting Form.

The Complaints Director will review your written statement. If necessary, the Complaints Director will appoint a preliminary investigator to look into the allegations. You will receive correspondence from the Complaints Director to inform you of the decision concerning your complaint.

What is the complaints review process?

When the Complaints Director receives a written complaint, he may:

  • encourage the complainant and the investigated person to communicate with each other and resolve the complaint;
  • attempt to resolve the complaint (with the consent of the complainant and the investigated person);
  • refer the complaint to an alternative complaint resolution process;
  • request an expert to assess and provide a written report on the matter of the complaint;
  • conduct, or appoint an investigator to conduct an investigation;
  • dismiss the complaint, if satisfied that it is trivial or vexatious;
  • dismiss the complaint, if satisfied that there is insufficient or no evidence of unprofessional conduct.

If a complaint is investigated:

Once the investigation is complete, the Complaints Director decides whether a complaint should be dismissed or referred for a hearing.

If alternative complaint resolution is used:

When alternative complaint resolution is used, the complaint is either successfully resolved through mediation or is referred back to the Complaints Director for resolution.

Your pharmacist can:

  • Recommend over-the-counter (OTC) products, vitamins, and herbal supplements
  • Teach you how to take and store your medication so you get the best results
  • Monitor and help manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, or high blood pressure
  • Adapt prescriptions:
  • renew (refill) a prescription for continuity of care,
  • substitute one drug for another, within the same class of drugs
  • alter the dose, formulation, or regimen (e.g., give you a liquid instead of a tablet)
  • Follow up with you to ensure your drug therapy is working and provide additional support in using your drugs properly

Alberta pharmacists can also renew prescriptions, and be authorized to administer drugs by injection and prescribe medications. To learn more about these services, read our brochure.

What else can pharmacists do?

Pharmacists also participate in the following:

  • Health Promotion: Wellness screening programs for osteoporosis, diabetes, cholesterol, immunizations, nutrition and diet counseling, home visits, tobacco reduction, family planning and reproductive health, breast pump counseling.
     
  • Disease Management: Education programs for patients that help them manage their health (hypertension, cholesterol, asthma, depression, anticoagulation, women's health, arthritis, pain management, osteoporosis), blood sugar and blood pressure monitoring, readings and interpretations.
     
  • Ensuring Effective Drug Therapy Outcomes: Medication reviews, home visits, specialty compounding, drug information consultations, addictions/substance abuse counseling (methadone, opiate dependency).
     
  • Primary Health Care: Treatment of minor injury and ailments (mouth ulcers, burns/scalds, colds, influenza, constipation, diarrhea, etc.), fitting of braces, crutches, wheelchairs, walkers, pressure stockings, triage telephone inquiries and counseling natural health and herbal therapy.

Talk to your pharmacist and get to know the range of services that your pharmacy offers.

Who are the other people behind the counter?

You may see a number of other people behind your pharmacy counter who are not pharmacists.

Pharmacy technicians

Pharmacy technicians are regulated health professionals. They assist with the day-to-day technical functions so that pharmacists can focus their time on patient care. Pharmacy technicians not only count pills and run the cash register, but also prepare drugs, enter drug orders, control pharmacy inventory, maintain complex equipment and obtain insurance authorizations.

Other pharmacy staff

Unregulated individuals, such as pharmacy assistants, may work in the dispensary under the direct supervision of a pharmacist. All of these people must maintain the confidentiality of all patient information received in the pharmacy.