A prescription is a written order, most frequently for medication, provided to a patient by a physician or other health care professional. The origin of the word prescription and the symbol R with a subscript x is weighted with different theories, but is commonly accepted as Latin. In early America, a prescription was merely when a physician would have written a recipe for preparing certain herbs for medicinal purposes. Today, a prescription is necessary for obtaining any medication that is not available for over the counter sale.
In the United States a prescription may be written by any licensed physician and in some cases, mid-level health care professionals, such as a nurse practitioner. The laws vary by state and are restricted to certain classes of medication. For example, though all prescription medications are federally controlled, some are also federally regulated and can only be prescribed by a doctor.
A prescription contains very specific information that a pharmacist needs in order to prepare and fill the prescription for use. The basic information on a prescription includes the patient’s name, the ordering physician’s name, and the date. Without even this basic information, a prescription can not legally be filled.
Though illegibility has long been associated with a prescription, a pharmacist is specially trained to read and understand the symbols, abbreviations, and spellings that the average layman can not. They know that what may look like scribbles to you is a drug name, an amount, dosage, and method and frequency for taking the medication. In cases where a mistake could easily be made, a well-trained pharmacist will call the doctor to double-check the prescription. As a patient, it could save you time at the pharmacy by making sure that your prescription is semi-legible and complete before leaving your doctor’s office.
You may also save yourself money if you ask your doctor for a prescription for over the counter medication. Some prescription plans cover all medication that is ordered and purchased under a doctor’s directions even if it doesn’t require a prescription to purchase. Medical spending accounts may or may not reimburse for over the counter medications without a doctor’s order. Check your plan’s details to verify its requirements.
Disclaimer: Cliff Schaffer does not personally endorse or support any of the comments made within the writings of this article.