Determining Your Medication Needs

Prescription Medications

Prescribed medications are most likely medications that require you to first visit a doctor's office.

Who can prescribe medications?

Health professionals with prescribing authority. This may include medical doctors, pharmacists with additional prescribing authorization, dentists, dental hygienists, midwives, nurse practitioners, optometrists, podiatrists, and veterinarians.

How are medications prescribed?

To understand and determine your medication needs these health professionals will ask you questions, assess your symptoms, and determine the best care for you based on their scope of practice.

What are prescribed medications?

The following are some examples of medications that require a prescription:

  • Antibiotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Inhalers
  • Birth control drugs and devices
  • Strong pain medications
  • Heart medications
  • Diabetes medications

Important note about letting others use your medical products: Sharing medications or other health products with others could lead to unforeseeable safety issues, such as allergic reactions, negative drug reactions, or wrong medication usage.


Non-Prescription Medications

A health professional may deem, based on their scope of practice and after assessing your symptoms, that you do not need prescription medication. Instead, they will counsel you on how you can self-manage your medical problem at home.

How to choose a non-prescription medication

There are a lot of options when it comes to choosing a non-prescription medication. Health professionals like pharmacists or your family doctor, for instance, can help you determine what non-prescription medication(s) are appropriate for your medical-related needs.

What are non-prescription medications?

The following are some examples of medications that do not require a prescription:

  • Influenza vaccines*
  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Cough and cold medications
  • Iron supplements
  • Emergency contraceptives
  • Ibuprofen (e.g., Advil)
  • Acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol)

*Important note for U of A students interested in getting the influenza vaccination: If you are enrolled in the AHCIP you can receive seasonal influenza vaccinations free of charge at local pharmacies, the UHC Pharmacy, the UHC, and medical clinics.

Other Medications


Routine vaccinations (e.g., dTAP) or other vaccinations (e.g., pneumococcal vaccine) are often provided through public health centres. For a referral to a public health centre, consult the UHC or your local medical centre.

Travel vaccinations are also available, but are often not covered through AHCIP or UAHIP. For more information and to find out if you are covered for the travel vaccinations you need, speak with a medical clinic personnel.


Pharmacists, the UHC, and medical clinics can provide some medications that require injection (e.g., Vitamin B12, insulin, etc). These medications may or may not be covered under your insurance plan. To learn more, speak with a health professional about your coverage and payment options prior to receiving treatment.

Important note for students who bring medications to Canada from their home country: You can legally bring 3-months' worth of medications with you if you came to Canada to study. You can also inquire with your health provider about what drugs are equivalent to the medications you brought from home.

Drop-in/walk-in clinic
If you have a medical concern, you can visit medical centres without booking appointments (e.g., University Health Centre in SUB 2-200).
Registered nurse
A nurse who is licensed to practice after receiving 4 years of university-level training.
This terms refers to health professionals who assess patients and determine who should be treated first. The priority in this case is not first-come, first-serve. Instead, priority is based on the severity of the medical situation.
Additional prescribing authority
Alberta pharmacists have a unique ability to obtain this type of authority. This authority allows them to write prescriptions for certain medications (e.g., antibiotics, antidepressants, inhalers, birth control drugs, heart medications, and diabetes medications) as a way to provide ongoing patient care.
Referral health care system
This means there is more than one level of health care service where, upon assessment from a health provider, you may be referred to additional medical services. In Canada, there is primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of health care services.
Ongoing medical care
Receiving ongoing medical care means that you are receiving continuous care, and/or coming back to the same doctor as other medical issues come up. This term can also indicate that you have a designated family doctor.
Private practice
Canada's health care system is publicly funded. However, some health practitioners offer services that are either partially covered or not covered at all (as outlined in your insurance plan) because they are not "medically necessary" services (e.g., cosmetic surgery). These health practitioners have a private practice.