Are you old enough to remember when drug prescriptions were handwritten on paper pads and taken to the local drugstore for filling? If so, you might also remember staring at an illegible prescription and having no clue as to what you were looking at. Yet everything on that piece of paper meant something to your doctor and pharmacist.
Modern prescriptions are recorded and filled electronically. Yet one thing has remained constant in the switch from paper to computers: the components that make up a proper drug prescription. There are eight of them.
1. Prescription Date
On the paper prescription pads of old, the first piece of information a doctor was required to complete was the date the prescription was written. This may seem like an unnecessary formality, but dating is important for record-keeping purposes. A doctor notes the date of the prescription in their records. Likewise, the pharmacist takes note of the date as well. They now have matching histories.
2. Patient Information
Next up is the patient’s personal information. Every prescription includes the patient’s name, age, sex, and address. This is necessary for a couple of reasons. First, the pharmacist uses the information to positively identify the person to whom they are selling the medication. It should be obvious as to why proper identification must be made.
Second, patient information is also used for tracking. Proper identification and tracking reduces the likelihood of using prescriptions to traffic controlled substances.
The ‘Rx’ symbol we used to see on paper prescriptions is known as the superscription. The two letters refer to Latin phrases telling pharmacists that the instructions therein have been provided by a doctor. Seeing the symbol is essentially a request to fill a prescription according to the doctor’s recommendation.
Why is this necessary? Because in some cases, pharmacists are allowed to fill prescriptions based on their own knowledge and expertise. Without the Rx symbol, a pharmacist might do just that.
The inscription is essentially the name of the drug in question and, if applicable, its formulation. We rarely see written formulations today due to how drugs are mass-produced. But way back when compounding was the norm, formulations listing each and every ingredient were common prescription components.
The subscription portion tells the pharmacist about dosage and the number of doses to be dispensed. In many cases, a subscription is also used to delineate the form in which a prescription should be filled. A prescription might be filled in tablet form for one patient but liquid for another.
6. Refill and Renewal Details
Prescriptions come with refill and renewal details. Refill details tell the pharmacist how many times the prescription can be filled. Renewal details indicate whether or not the prescription can be renewed and, if so, when.
All drug prescriptions must be accompanied by a licensed medical provider’s signature. In the U.S., it can be a doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant. Electronic signatures are common now that prescriptions are being filled electronically.
8. Provider Information
Finally, prescriptions include details about the provider. This includes the provider’s name, business address, and government ID number. In the case of U.S. prescriptions, the ID number is a DEA registration number.
Licensed pharmacies in the U.S. look for these eight components to confirm that a prescription is legitimate. According to Canada Pharmacy, online pharmacies should be looking for the same components. Only a prescription with the required information is considered valid. Attempting to obtain prescription medications without a valid prescription is both unwise and against the law.