Many colleges and universities offer on-campus healthcare clinic services to their students. These student health clinics are typically staffed by a physician or advanced practice provider such as a nurse practitioner. In addition to providing professional services, these providers may on occasion prescribe medications to students. Some of our clients have asked whether it is also permissible for the providers to actually dispense these medications on-site, even though the clinic is not licensed as a pharmacy.

While the answer to this question is dependent on state law, generally many states provide for an exemption to pharmacy licensure requirements for licensed health care providers with prescriptive authority. For example, in Illinois, the Illinois Pharmacy Act explicitly states that it does not apply to “the lawful practice of any physician licensed to practice medicine in all of its branches, dentist, podiatric physician, veterinarian, or therapeutically or diagnostically certified optometrist within the limits of his or her license, or prevent him or her from supplying to his or her bona fide patients such drugs, medicines, or poisons as may seem to him appropriate” (225 ILCS 85/4(a)). In addition, the Act states that it also does not apply to the delegation of prescriptive authority by a physician to a physician assistant or advanced practice registered nurse (225 ILCS 85/4 (f) and (g)).

While these exemptions are typically found in a state’s pharmacy licensing statutes, more specific requirements related to a provider’s prescriptive and dispensing authority may be found in the state licensing statutes applicable to such provider. In Illinois, the regulations applicable to APRN licensure state that certain labeling requirements must be met with respect to drugs personally dispensed by the APRN. However, the regulations go on to provide a specific exception for “drugs or medicines in a package that bears a label of the manufacturer containing information describing its contents that is in compliance with requirements of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 USC 301) and the Illinois Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act [410 ILCS 620]” (Ill. Admin. Code tit. 68, § 1300.466). Therefore, in Illinois, no additional labeling would be required for medications that are packaged and labeled by a manufacturer (e.g., Tamiflu).

It is important to review your state’s pharmacy and provider licensing statutes to determine whether dispensing medications on-site is an option for your student health clinic. If a state has statutes that permit these activities, it can provide a helpful benefit for students requiring prescription medications as a result of a visit to the clinic.