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  • Kenny Huynh and Amanda Mac

Prescribing as a Pharmacist?

Traditionally, community pharmacists have played the role of dispensing medications and health advice. The convenience they provide is widely appreciated by patients.

However, pharmacists, along with some patients, dispute the current state of pharmacists and their potential, particularly in Ontario.

The scope of practice for pharmacists varies in Canada with provincial government. Ontario pharmacists can extend a prescription without refills for a short supply. They can also administer vaccines and immunizations. This came about more recently. Also, medication for chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, may be renewed.

In Alberta, pharmacists can prescribe antibiotics.

Despite these capabilities, Ontario pharmacists cannot prescribe for minor ailments. These ailments range from coughs and sore throats to oral ulcers and dermatitis. Patients must seek a physician instead. The wait time to see a physician or reach the emergency room can be long. This delay could exacerbate a patient’s condition.

The ability of Ontario pharmacists to prescribe for minor ailments is currently under implementation, with hopes for completion by summer.

This change in the role of pharmacists could benefit pharmacists by better putting their expertise to use and patients with more timely treatment. Overall, it could more more effectively redistribute load in the healthcare system.

Part of this change requires pharmacists to collaborate with physicians. The expertise of pharmacists lying in treatment and not in diagnosis is a point of discussion for risk. Perhaps a minor ailment is sign of something greater that might be left unrecognised.

Do you think pharmacists in Ontario should have more authority in their practice and be able to prescribe for minor ailments?

For more details on the scope of practice for pharmacists across Canada, visit

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