Writing a Prescription

A prescription is one of the most important and significant papers which should contain only accurate information and there is no place for any typos or errors. The explanation has to be as clear as possible.

Writing a Prescription

Who can write a prescription? It can be a doctor, medical assistant, nurse, or paramedical worker. The information in the prescription has to be as minimized as possible. Not all the medicines need to be prescribed, so there are laws determining which of them need and which don’t.

Prescription errors lead to negative consequences. So writing a prescription is a task that requires special attention. Let’s find out how to do it properly to avoid poor results.

General Information

When writing a prescription, you should include certain information in it. And here is what exactly:

Patient’s identifiers

First of all, you have to include at least two identifiers of your patient. The identity of the person who will use that prescription has to be clarified. So make sure to include at least two identifiers in every setting. The identifiers can be as follows:

  • Full name;
  • Date of birth;
  • Phone number;
  • Address.

The first two identifiers are the most common. If the prescription is written not in the hospital, you should also include his phone number and current address. You cannot state just one identifier, even if you write the full name of the patient. There are people with identical names, so it will be difficult to identify whose prescription it is.

Your information

The name and contact information of the prescriber is a must. You should include your full name, the medical practice address, and its phone number. Make sure to include also such information, as the United States Drug Enforcement Administration number (DEA). As a rule, it is already stated on the form. But in case there is no such information, add it manually.


There are prescriptions that have to be filed within a certain period of time. But you should state the date in any case, because there are schedule categories for time-sensitive drugs:

  • Schedule I drugs. They are not legally accepted for medical use in the USA because of a high risk of abuse;
  • Schedule II drugs. They are legally accepted for medical use in the USA although still have a high risk of abuse;
  • Schedule III drugs. They can be used for medical purposes and have some potential risk for abuse;
  • Schedule IV drugs. They are legally accepted for some medical purposes and have a pretty low risk of abuse;
  • Schedule V drugs. These drugs are allowed for medical use and have the lowest risk of abuse.

Your signature

Every prescription has to be signed by the prescriber, otherwise, it cannot be considered valid. The signature also has its place in the prescription and it is to be stated in a specific line at the bottom of your prescription form.

Note! Avoid signing your prescriptions beforehand. First, fill in the body of the prescription and only then sign it up. This way, you will avoid problems in case a blank prescription is in someone’s bad hands.

What Is Inscription?

Now let’s find out how to write an inscription. Follow the tips below:

The “Rx” symbol

You should write this “superscription” symbol before your instructions. As a rule, this symbol is printed on the prescription form. The inscription information, including the information about the drug, follows that symbol.

The medication and its strength

Never use the name of the brand. Instead, write the generic name of the drug. Only if you are intended to prescribe the medicine of a specific brand, you can write it. But it may be expensive for your patient, so avoid specifying the brand names.

If you choose to do so, write “No Generics” in your prescription. Some prescription forms have such fields as “No Generics” or “Brand Name Only”. So you can use them.

The majority of medications have different strengths, so your duty is to specify the strength to be prescribed right after its name. Milligrams go for tablets and suppositories; milliliters go for fluids. Avoid using abbreviations not to confuse the patient.

What Is Subscription?

Now here is the full information on how to write the subscription:

The amount of the prescription

The pharmacist has to know exactly how much of the medication he or she should pass to the patient. That information will follow such words or signs as “dispense”, “disp”, “#”, “how much”. Don’t forget to spell the numbers.

The number of permitted refills

This information also has to be included in your prescription. If your patient has a chronic disease, you may allow a certain refills’ number instead of another prescription.

When no refills are allowed, just write “Refills 0” or “Refills none”.

The Directions for Patient Use

The patient has to know how to use or take the medicines prescribed. So here is the information to include in the prescription:

The route

Specify the method of taking the prescribed medication, it is called the route. Write all the instructions using Latina abbreviations or English terms:

  • PO – by mouth;
  • IM – intramuscular;
  • PR – per rectum;
  • SL – sublingual;
  • IV – intravenous;
  • IN – intranasal;
  • TP – topical;
  • ID – intradermal;
  • IP – intraperitoneal;
  • BUCC – buccal.

The dosage and frequency

The dosage amount has to be specified as well. The patient has to know the exact dose of medicines to take each time. He also should know how and when to take the medicines. Avoid using abbreviations here, better write the frequency fully.

Abbreviations for the medication to be used “daily” or “every other day” are forbidden! But there are abbreviations for other frequencies:

  • BID – twice a day;
  • Q4H – every four hours;
  • QHS – every bedtime;
  • TID – three times a day;
  • QID – four times a day;
  • QWK – every week;
  • Q4-6H – every four to six hours.

Also, you should specify when the patient has to stop using the medication. The majority of them are taken until they run out. However, if you want your patient to stop taking the medicines once the symptoms disappear, state it.

The diagnosis

Write a brief diagnosis or reason for taking the medicines if it is used only when needed. The diagnosis should follow the PRN abbreviation. There are also some common instructions you may include in your prescription, for example, “take with food”, “do not freeze”, etc.

What You Should Pay Attention to

  • The prescription may be typed. Also, make sure to write it in ink and indelible pencil to avoid tampering;
  • Only authorized people may write prescriptions;
  • Write it clearly and avoid dosage errors. Remember that prescription errors may cost someone’s life!
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