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Can Surgeons Prescribe Medicine?

A doctor can prescribe medicine, but under certain conditions and with limitations in terms of the type of medicine they can prescribe, who they can prescribe it to, etc. So that begs the question, can surgeons prescribe medicine? Surgeons have different rules than other medical professionals with regards to prescribing medication. Find out all about how and when surgeons can prescribe medicine in Australia by reading this article.

What Are the Laws Governing Medicine Prescription?

The laws governing prescription by medical practitioners are contained in several pieces of legislation, including Part IIIA of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Act, and various state and territory-based legislative provisions.

There are three main types of medical practitioners who can prescribe: medical practitioners including medical specialists, midwives and nurse practitioners. These medical practitioners must be registered with Medicare Australia to issue a prescription.

Medical practitioners issue prescriptions, which are then filled by a pharmacist, and paid for by Medicare or a private health insurer. Midwives can also issue maternity certificates for Medicare items. Nurse practitioners are not able to prescribe under their independent authority but can prescribe under delegation from a medical practitioner or midwife.

The laws governing prescription by medical practitioners are complex, with variations between states and territories. Prescription medicines can be categorised as follows: Schedule 4 (S4) and Schedule 8 (S8) medicines, as well as medicine on an approved formulary list of a hospital or non-hospital community setting. What can be prescribed under each category varies by state and territory.

S4 medicines are prescription-only medicines that have been determined to have a potential for abuse, misuse or dependence. In most states and territories, they can only be prescribed by medical practitioners, midwives or nurse practitioners with an Authority to Prescribe (ATP) from Medicare Australia. They can’t be prescribed on an approved formulary list of a hospital or non-hospital community setting unless specified under the legislation. States and territories may limit supply quantities as well as schedule restrictions as to when these medicines can be dispensed.

S8 drugs are pharmaceutical benefits under Schedule 8 of Part IIIA of the MBS Act. There is only one category at the federal level, but state and territory legislation defines their availability in a more specific way. The dispensing of S8 medicines is restricted to pharmacists only and can’t be prescribed on an approved formulary list of a hospital or non-hospital community setting unless specified under the legislation.

Who Can Prescribe Medication in Australia

several medical professionals can prescribe medication, including doctors and pharmacists. However, for many people, getting their prescription medicine is as simple as popping into their regular doctor’s surgery.  There are a few types of doctors who can prescribe medicine. These include:

1. Medical Practitioners

To prescribe medicine, a medical practitioner must be registered with The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Once registered, a doctor may also write authority for another health professional to prescribe and supply pharmaceuticals.

2. Registrars

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) is a government organisation that regulates health practitioners. Registrars are people who’ve graduated from an approved medical school and are being mentored by a qualified doctor. You may notice that some surgeons have added RM or similar after their name, which means they’re registered medical practitioners with AHPRA. These can prescribe medications as part of their practice.

3. Nurses and Midwives

Nurses and midwives can both prescribe medication under specific circumstances.  A nurse will always require a prescription from a doctor; however, a nurse is legally allowed to prescribe certain medications without any additional input from another medical professional. Midwives are also able to prescribe medicine independently, but only if they have been registered as general practitioners for at least five years and have access to local medical records for their clients.

4. General practitioners

General practitioners (GPs) are medical practitioners trained to deal with a range of common health issues and minor injuries. GPs can be your primary point of contact for most non-emergency health issues, including diagnosing, treating and prescribing medication. More often than not, a GP will refer you to another specialist if they can’t treat your condition themselves.

5. A dentist

If you live outside of a major city, you may not have ready access to a dentist who can prescribe medication. Whether you need an antibiotic for your sore throat or a pain reliever for your toothache, it’s important to find someone who has experience with medications and doesn’t rely on simply writing out a prescription every time.

There are several other specialists that are under dentists. These include dental implant surgeons, bone grafting surgeons and more.

6. Naturopath

You may have heard of a naturopath, but you might not know much about what they do. They’re a type of practitioner who focuses on health and wellbeing through natural means. Natural therapists are required to meet specified education requirements to become accredited practitioners and prescribe medicine were permitted (like an Australian-registered doctor). The specific rules around prescribing medicine vary from state to state; check with your local regulatory body for more information.

Do All Medical Practitioners Prescribe Medicines?

Not all medical practitioners are authorised to prescribe medicines; for example, some only specialise in surgery or orthopaedics. If you’re suffering from a medical condition that requires medication, your GP general practitioner will be able to refer you to a specialist who has been approved by Medicare and can prescribe medicines. It’s worth noting that not all surgeons have full prescribing rights, but they can make recommendations as appropriate.

Even if you have a condition that isn’t life-threatening, it’s important to keep up with your appointments to avoid any further complications. It also allows your doctor to check for related issues or other problems that may need treating.

Can A Surgeon Prescribe Medicine in Australia?

A surgeon has skills, education and training in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and much more; a physician who isn’t a surgeon doesn’t. If you have an illness or disease that requires treatment beyond your physician’s knowledge set—be it surgery or not—they should refer you to a specialist. They may even be legally obligated to do so. 

In Australia, most surgeons will train as general practitioners before specialising, whilst others prefer to focus their studies on cardiothoracic or plastic surgery only. Either way, those additional years of study and clinical experience increase your chances of receiving top-level care when you need it most. This means that surgeon can sometimes prescribe medication just like a GP. But because medical experts are divided over whether or not doctors should be allowed to operate on patients without performing additional training.

Without specialist training and experience, physicians are not generally permitted to perform surgery. Doctors who also happen to be surgeons can sometimes face disciplinary action from their college or a medical tribunal if they are caught operating outside of their area of expertise.

Many people confuse a physician with a surgeon. Both occupations require licensure in most states, but there are crucial differences between them: namely, what medical training and specialization they have pursued. A surgeon has skills, education and training in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and much more; a physician who isn’t a surgeon doesn’t.


A surgeon can prescribe medicine. The surgeon is, by definition, a doctor. Doctors can prescribe medicine, per their training and licensure as doctors. Thus, yes, surgeons can prescribe medicine in Australia. In Australia, all states have enacted legislation that enables qualified medical practitioners to prescribe, supply and administer drugs or medicines for the treatment of patients suffering from injury or disease or whose condition requires the administration of drugs or medicines.


1. What does a surgeon need to be able to prescribe medicine?

To be able to prescribe medicine, surgeons need board certification in their specialty, state licensing and a DEA number for controlled substances. For non-controlled substances like antibiotics, a prescription from another medical provider is needed if state laws allow it.

2. When can a surgeon prescribe medicine?

A physician must be licensed by their state board to receive authority to practice medicine within that state; however, physicians are allowed by law to treat patients for anything that is not against his or their scope of practice.

3. Where should you buy a medicine prescribed by a surgeon?

They can be obtained from any pharmacy. It does not matter where you buy them. You need to check with your physician first before purchasing them.


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