Can a Pharmacist Prescribe Antibiotics? What a Pharmacist Can Do

Posted October 9, 2019 by Michael Chamberlain - See Editorial Guidelines(Last Updated On: February 10, 2023)
Can a Pharmacist Prescribe Antibiotics? What a Pharmacist Can Do

Before you walk into a pharmacy and ask if the pharmacist can prescribe antibiotics, or if you’re wondering why your pharmacist has gone through a drawn-out process regarding an inquiry for them, then in this article we’re going to explain the process of what antibiotics a pharmacist can prescribe and the process they have to follow to do that. 

Can A Pharmacist Prescribe Antibiotics? There are 32 different minor ailments when diagnosis and treatment have already been established that a pharmacist can prescribe antibiotics. Pharmacists cannot prescribe antibiotics if certain warning signs or specific symptoms are present. The pharmacists must meet certain statutory conditions.

It’s common for many of us to simply ask a pharmacist for specific recommendations or medications for minor pains.

In most cases, the pharmacist will recommend certain (common) over-the-counter medications, and here’s what other drugs pharmacists can prescribe. But when it comes to prescribing antibiotics, there is much more that decides this ability for a pharmacist to prescribe.

To begin with, in this article, let’s explore which ailments qualify for the pharmacists to prescribe antibiotics.

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Which Ailments Can a Pharmacist Prescribe Antibiotics for

A pharmacist can prescribe antibiotics only for a listed set of 32 minor ailments. A minor ailment is where the medical condition is not serious and does not require any blood or other lab tests. 

It’s classed as a medical condition that can be cured with minimal treatment and/or self-care strategies.

These minor ailments can also be treated with at-home treatments, over-the-counter medication treatments, and other prescription medications.

A minor ailment lasts for a short period. It will also not require you to make frequent visits to the pharmacy or your pharmacy care provider.

The 32 Possible Minor Ailments a Pharmacist Can Treat

Prescribe Antibiotics
  1. Allergic Rhinitis
  2. Calluses and Corns
  3. Contact Allergic Dermatitis (skin reaction from coming into contact with an allergen)
  4. Cough
  5. Dandruff
  6. Dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps)
  7.  Dyspepsia (indigestion)
  8. Emergency Contraception
  9. Fungal Infections of the Skin (such as Athlete’s Foot)
  10. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (acid reflux)
  11. Hemorrhoids
  12. Herpes Simplex (cold sores)
  13. Impetigo
  14. Mild Acne
  15. Mild Headache
  16. Mild to Moderate Eczema
  17. Mild Urticaria (including bites and stings/hives)
  18. Minor Joint Pain
  19. Minor Muscle Pain
  20. Minor Sleep Disorders
  21. Nasal Congestion
  22. Nausea
  23. Non-infectious Diarrhea
  24. Oral Fungal Infection (thrush)
  25. Oral Ulcers
  26. Smoking Cessation
  27. Sore Throat
  28. Threadworms and Pinworms
  29. Uncomplicated urinary tract infection 
  30. Vaginal Candidiasis (yeast infection)
  31. Warts (excluding facial and genital)
  32. Xerophthalmia (dry eyes)

However, in some states, these minor ailments are limited to 12 which are categorized as follows.

Can a Pharmacist Prescribe Antibiotics? What a Pharmacist Can Do

Skin Problems 

  1. Mild acne
  2. Atopic dermatitis (eczema) requiring the use of low-to-moderate potency corticosteroids
  3. Diaper rash in newborns


  1. Cold sores (oral herpes)
  2. Thrush following the use of corticosteroid inhaler (pumps for respiratory problems)

Ear, Nose and Throat Related 

  1. Allergic conjunctivitis
  2. Allergic rhinitis
  3. Mouth ulcers

Women’s Health-related 

  1. Dysmenorrhea (painful menstruations)
  2. Urinary tract infections
  3. Vaginal yeast infections


  1. Hemorrhoids

Many people often confuse minor ailments with other types of complicated diseases. The best example could be a urinary tract infection. This is because a pharmacist may prescribe an antibiotic for a urinary tract infection if they feel it’s necessary. This is why the list specifically says, “uncomplicated urinary tract infection.”

However, seeing pharmacists prescribing for urinary tract infections, many patients mistakenly believe pharmacists can also prescribe antibiotics for conditions such as strep throat.

A pharmacist can never prescribe for a strep throat or any other complicated diseases that require complex physical evaluation of the patient.

Certain diseases will require bacterial infection tests which are beyond the capacity of the pharmacist, which may not allow a pharmacist to prescribe any antibiotics.

How a Pharmacist Decides Whether or Not to Prescribe Antibiotics

It’s important to remember that just because you think you have a minor ailment or if your pharmacists see it as a minor ailment, it does not necessarily mean you are going to get a prescription for antibiotics. 

A pharmacist will first assess your “minor ailment” before prescribing you anything. This is usually called an assessment process, through which a pharmacist will decide whether or not to prescribe you antibiotics.

So, with that topic hopefully made clearer, let’s see how the assessment process for prescribing antibiotics works.

The Assessment Process for Prescribing Antibiotics

When you have a minor ailment and you need an antibiotic, the pharmacists will obtain your consent to complete an assessment. The assessment will be done in a private consulting room, usually next to the pharmacy. Depending on the pharmacy, some pharmacists may require an appointment for an assessment. 

Firstly, the pharmacist will have a detailed discussion regarding your minor ailment. This includes discussion on your past and present medical conditions, allergies, medications you are currently taking, symptoms of this minor ailment and how long you’ve been experiencing them. 

Prescribe Antibiotics

It’s after this detailed discussion, that the pharmacist will make a recommendation for an over-the-counter medication or a prescription medication, depending on the ailment. 

Following the discussion if the pharmacist feels the condition is much more serious or if the pharmacist is unsure, you’ll be referred to a doctor rather than being issued with antibiotics.

If an antibiotic is prescribed by the doctor, the pharmacists will prepare the prescription, which you can either fill in the same pharmacy or a different one. 

When prescribing an antibiotic or related medication, the pharmacists will also send a notification to your doctor for maintaining records. If you don’t have a doctor, the pharmacist will provide you with a doctor’s notice to retain until you have a doctor. 

After prescribing the antibiotic the pharmacists will follow up (usually through calls) to see how you feel. Depending on the effectiveness of the antibiotic and how you feel, the pharmacists will let you know whether to continue or move to a different recommendation or if you need to go to a doctor.

Usually, for minor ailment assessment and prescribing services, a fee is charged. This fee may vary from one pharmacy to another. It’s also important to emphasize not all pharmacies may have this minor assessment and prescribing services available.

Conditions a Pharmacist Should Meet to Receive the Prescriptive Authority (Ability to Prescribe Antibiotics)

Prescribe Antibiotics

Generally, a pharmacist is required by a state board of pharmacy to meet 2 of the 3 conditions below, to receive the prescriptive authority for prescribing antibiotics or any other medicine.

  1. The pharmacist should earn certification in one of the relevant areas of practice such as critical care, ambulatory care, oncology pharmacy or pharmacotherapy.
  2. The pharmacist should have completed at least a one-year residency program upon completion of pharmacy school.
  3. The pharmacist should provide clinical services to patients for one year under a collaborative practice agreement, or protocol with a physician or other health care provider.

Even if a pharmacist meets all these requirements and can prescribe antibiotics, the pharmacist can use this prescriptive authority only under certain circumstances.

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Circumstances Under Which a Pharmacist Can Use the Prescriptive Authority

  • You have already been diagnosed and obtained treatment from a doctor or a specialized nurse. You should have also received a prescription on your ailment in the past. 
  • The last prescription you received for this minor ailment is less than four years for all the ailments listed. Exceptions are there for ailments such as primary dysmenorrhea and hemorrhoids (less than two years) and urinary tract infections in women (less than twelve months).
  • As a woman, you cannot have been receiving treatment for up to three times in the last year for a urinary tract infection (If so, you may not be able to receive a prescription for antibiotics from the pharmacists)
  • The symptoms you experience should be clear enough for the pharmacist to understand the intensity of your ailment. 

Only if these conditions are met, the pharmacist will have the ability to prescribe antibiotics or any other related medications for your ailment. The pharmacist may, however, prescribe medication or antibiotics equal or lower to the one prescribed by your doctor originally.

Signs and Symptoms Under Which a Pharmacist Cannot Prescribe Antibiotics

If all the right circumstances and prescriptive authority conditions are met, a pharmacist still cannot prescribe any antibiotics or medications when certain warning signs are present, including certain symptoms as follows.

  • A persisting or recurring condition of a minor ailment even after the treatment is over 
  • When signals of an undiagnosed illness are identified
  • The reflection of a decline or change in the function of any organs 
  • The patient shows an unusual reaction to a medicine/antibiotic 
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To close…

We hope this has been of use to you if you are met with the predicament of not being able to obtain antibiotics from your Pharmacist. Hopefully, it’s provided you with some understanding that there are reasons and practices that need to be followed. As we always recommend, if you’re in any doubt then consult your pharmacist or your doctor. In addition, be sure to always check the potential side effects before you buy antibiotics over the counter, or receive them from a pharmacist. If you experience allergic reactions or any other severe side effects be sure to contact your doctor as soon as possible. 

If you have any questions about how Prescription Hope can help you save money on drugs that we offer, or if you’re having trouble affording any of the medications you’ve been prescribed, contact us, or visit the enrollment page to create an account and fill out an application to start saving.

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