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What is a Prescription?

Prescriptions, written by physicians or medical doctors, are medication instructions to pharmacists for an individual patient. Prescriptions have legal implications making the prescriber assume responsibility for the clinical care of the patient.

What’s on a Prescription?  

Prescriptions include:

  • the name of medical practice or physician,
  • the physical address of the medical practice or physician,
  • the phone number of the medical practice/physician,
  • the name of the patient,
  • the date the prescription was written,
  • the name of the medication,
  • it’s strength,
  • directions to the patient on how to take the prescription,
  • the number of refills, if any,
  • a Dispense As Written (DAW) code,
  • the prescriber’s signature,
  • and the prescriber’s DEA or NPI number
What is a Prescription?

What is a Prescription?

Some of the short-cuts prescribers use for common instructions, derived from Latin phrases, include; PRN means as needed, AC means before meals, WF means with food, PO means by mouth or orally.

DAW codes refer to the ways the medication is to be dispensed. Many insurance companies rely on the DAW codes to determine your copay. If your prescriber insists you need to take the brand name medication instead of the generic, if available, then they will indict DAW 1. You may see a check box selection on your prescription for DAW codes. A DAW 2 means you, not your physician, insists on the brand even if a generic is available. Some insurance companies may penalize you with a higher copay if you take a brand drug when a generic is available.

Poor Prescriber’s Handwriting

According to the National Institutes of Health, as many as 7,000 patients die from medication errors related to illegible prescriptions.  Most pharmacists will contact the prescriber in cases where they cannot reliably read the prescription. Pharmacists will also contact the prescriber if they suspect the prescription was forged.

There are many types of prescription forgery. The most common ones include stolen prescription pads, altered amounts on legitimate prescriptions, and faked phoned-in or faxed prescriptions. There are measures to make the process of photocopying a prescription more difficult which is why prescriptions pads contain security measures like the ones used on bank checks.


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