The prescription is one of the most important therapeutic transactions between physician and patient. A prescription (Rx) is typically a healthcare plan executed by a physician, wherein instructions are mentioned that manage the mode of treatment for an individual patient. The prescription “instructs” patients to ‘take’ rather than ‘give’, and therefore, is directed at the patient, and not anyone else.
Globally, there is no particular standard for writing a prescription and every country has its own laws and regulations concerning the same. In India, only a registered medical practitioner (with the respective State Council) has the authority to prescribe allopathic drugs, which includes a doctor practicing allopathy, a dentist, and a veterinarian. Some states instruct only dentists to prescribe certain classes of drugs directly involved in dental treatment. As a result, a nurse, pharmacist, unqualified personnel with questionable and unauthorised degrees who are not recognised by the government as frauds are not sanctioned to recommend allopathic prescription medicines.
In India, the over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are available to purchase without the prescription. Apart from OTC, there are 2 categories of drugs that require the prescription from your physician. They are as follows:
- Prescription medications or Legend Drugs: These require prescription. They’re called Legend drugs because they carry the legend of warning warranting a prescription by law.
- Controlled Drugs: These require prescription as well as the additional precautions for storage. Both State as well as Central governments create rules and regulation for drugs under this category.
Every State has their own guidelines for prescriptions but most follow a similar format, which should ideally include the following sections/contents:
- These should appear first in order: Doctor’s full name, address, qualification, registration number, prescription date.
- The heading or Superscription: Should include all the details of patient.
- Body (Rx), usually divided into Inscription and Subscription: Inscription should contain the drug name, recommended to be mentioned in the generic form in CAPITAL; and dose form. While the subscription should include directions for pharmacists with respect to the dose form and amount of drug to be dispensed.
- Transcription or Label: It includes directions for patients regarding route of administration or number of doses, etc.
- Signature: Contains prescriber’s signature in blue indelible ink, DEA number, and refill instructions.
In addition, the prescription pads should be protected at all times to avoid their misuse. A doctor shouldn’t use another doctor’s prescription pad/form. Also, doctors should be careful while prescribing a habit-forming medication and inform patients about the harmful effects of these medicines on their behaviour as well as potential side effects with their long term use. It is also advised to always mention the potency of single component drugs, as new potencies keep getting introduced in the market. Also, for combination products, potencies of individual components must be mentioned to avoid any misinterpretations. Any alterations or overwriting in the prescription is not allowed. But if it is unavoidable, the doctor’s initials to mark the alteration are mandatory.
In summary, the prescription should include name and contact details of your physician followed by that of the patient, date of prescription, generic name of the drug with its strength, form, and amount, any warnings, and finally the signature or initials of the prescribing physician. You should typically receive the prescription in this format, mentioned on the prescription order or prescription pad. Prescription can be regarded as legally important. It should be received in a clear, crisp, precise and decipherable form. The prescription should be received in with a complete information, written in indelible ink. Prescription should be sufficiently comprehensible by the patients and should be clearly understandable by the pharmacist.