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May Medical Assistants Call in New Prescriptions or Refills to a Pharmacy?

It depends…

The Medical Board of California (MBC) cautions, “Physicians should view carefully his or her decision to allow medical assistants to perform this task.” It is not the physical act of picking up a phone and dialing a number that is of concern. Rather, “the authority to prescribe or refill prescriptions is only granted to licensed physicians and surgeons, podiatrists, or those individuals authorized by law to do so.” Medical assistants do not have the medical and pharmacological training, the licensure, or the legal authority to evaluate the appropriateness of a medication prescription or refill.  Therefore, medical assistants may NOT call in new prescriptions or any medication refill that have changes. 

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The good news is that California law authorizes medical assistants to “perform basic administrative, clerical, and technical supportive services.” The MBC interprets this law to allow a medical assistant--under the direct supervision of a physician--to call, email, or fax in routine medication refills that are “exact and have no changes in dosage level.” 

To be compliant with CA law and to ensure patient safety, CAP recommends:

  1. The supervising physician provide a policy and procedure to be followed by a medical assistant in transmitting a prescription refill to the pharmacy.
  2. The medical assistant has training and demonstrates competence in performing the task of transmitting prescription refills to the pharmacy. 
  3. The supervising physician must authorize the medical assistant to transmit a prescription refill to the pharmacy by writing a patient-specific order or with a standing order in the patient’s medical record.
  4. The medical assistant document the medication refill in the patient’s medical record, including their name or initials, the date and time, a description of the task performed, and the name of the physician authorizing the refill.

Medical Assistant (MA) scope of practice is a hot topic with physicians and medical office managers. To learn more, visit the Medical Board of California's website:

Call the CAP Hotline at 800-252-0555 to speak to Risk Management and Patient Safety experts. Request a medical liability risk office Practice Survey today!  Email your request to


Medical Board of California,

CA Business and Professions Code Section 2069-2071

California Code, Health and Safety Code 1204

CA Code of Regulations Title 16, Article 2, Section 1366-1366.4

CMA’s CA Physicians’ Legal Handbook 2018


Authored by
Amy McLain, BSN, RN
Senior Risk Management & Patient Safety Specialist


If you have questions about this article, please contact us. This information should not be considered legal advice applicable to a specific situation. Legal guidance for individual matters should be obtained from a retained attorney.