Untold Secrets of How to Make Sense of a Doctors Prescription


A Quick lesson in deciphering Doctor Speak

Did you ever wonder why you can’t understand what your Doctor has written on the prescription, they just gave you.

Maybe yes, maybe no, really as long as your pharmacist understands it is all that matters!

However, if you were curious about how to interpret a prescription I’ve copied a body of a prescription, it’s typed and computer generated so as to make it readable. It of course is not a real prescription however the medicine exists, but the dosage is made up. However for the purposes of understanding a prescription it’s irrelevant.

For old school doctor’s writing in Latin was how they were taught to write prescriptions, for example writing 1 (for take 1) they wrote a small what closely resembled the letter T with a dot on top to signify one, and to signify two an additional dot was added above the T.

Today’s Younger Doctor’s generally will write out in English take 1 tablet.

However the rest of instructions generally are written in Latin.

First up top the R with the little line through it means this prescription is for this medication, in this case Amoxicillin (an antibiotic in case you wondered) followed by the milligrams and the form of the medication.

That’s the easy part, the next line are the instructions which become dicey.

The first word is Sig: which stands for instructions on how to take the medicine. This prescription clearly states one tablet, however next is PO. What does that mean? It means in English “by mouth” and lastly how often to take the medicine. In this example it says BID, in English means twice a day.

Other common examples include TID which is 3 times a day, QID, 4 times a day, PRN, as needed, qam, Morning time, qpm, bedtime.

The last thing of interest the Doctor generally will allow you to purchase a generic if available and accordingly will sign above the line “substitute permitted”. If they require only the brand name the will sign above the “Dispense as written”

That’s understanding a prescription in sixty seconds

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