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Physician assistants able to prescribe

May 3, 2023
There are limitations but physician assistants are able to prescribe most medications.

On April 1, 2021, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) began regulating physician assistants (PAs).

PAs practise medicine under a doctor’s supervision in clinical settings; their services depend on the individual PA-physician relationship. A PA’s scope of practice can include the following:

  • see and assess patients,
  • take patient histories,
  • perform physical exams,
  • educate patients,
  • perform procedures, and
  • assist in surgery.

Physician assistants also have the authorization to prescribe most medications. PAs cannot prescribe controlled substances or narcotics.

PAs prescribe in accordance with CPSA’s Restricted Activities Standard of Practice and a supervising physician is responsible for the prescription. The supervising physician must be clearly identified on the prescription (e.g., the supervising physician’s name, registration number or PRAC ID, and/or contact information).  Although PAs practise under supervision, the supervising physician does not need to sign the prescription and regulated pharmacy members should attribute the prescription to the PA using their name and registration number.

Pharmacists are advised to collaborate with the prescribing physician assistant as needed when assessing patients who receive prescriptions from them. Pharmacists should expand this collaboration to include the supervising physician when they determine it is appropriate.

Consult the physicians, surgeons, and physician assistants prescribers list to identify PAs. When entering a dispensed event into electronic records, PAs should be entered in the same manner as a physician, as their practice permits are issued by CPSA.

Please be aware that prescriptions uploaded to Netcare with a PA indicated as the prescriber currently appear as “unknown prescriber.” This is a known issue that Netcare is actively working to correct.

For more information about physician assistants and their scope of practice, refer to CPSA’s Advice to the Profession: Physician Assistants.