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Writing a Prescription: Guidelines

Writing a Prescription: Guidelines

Writing a prescription is both a science and an art. With the recent notification of the government and the council, indeed many medical practitioners have been left confused on how to go about writing their prescriptions. Yet doctors also need to keep in mind that there are many essential, sometimes legal requirements that are mandated in a practitioner’s prescription, and some very important points that we must remember, while undertaking this routine yet most significant task. While there are pointers for doctors to remember here and there, there are no set guidelines that medical practitioners in India can follow given by the government or the council.

Having said that  the Voluntary Health Association of Goa, with inputs from various stakeholders has come out with Guidelines for prescription writing and handling of prescriptions and prescription medicines

A prescription has various parts; some of them “mandatory” (as per the Drugs & Cosmetics Act and Rules, or the Medical Council of India), and some of them though not mandatory, important for better understanding of the prescription by the pharmacist and the patient also. Here are some of the key elements that every prescription should contain as highlighted by the  Voluntary Health Association Goa guidelines.

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Details pertaining to DOCTORS

  • Doctor’s full name (printed on the letterhead)
  • Doctor’s details such as address, consultation timings, telephone/ contact numbers should printed on the letterhead.
  • Doctor’s Qualification should printed on the letterhead. This means ALL the degrees, especially the primary degree, namely, M.B.B.S./B.D. S./B.V.Sc.
  • Doctor’s registration number and the registering authority should be printed on the letterhead.
  • Doctor’s full signature and date, both in blue indelible ink. This is required to verify the authenticity of prescription in order to prevent misuse.
  • Date of prescribing- Also a legal requirement
  • Rx superscription- Not a legal requirement but most often used as a matter of practice. It comes from the Latin “Take Thou”
  • Doctor’s rubber stamp containing his full name, qualifications, and Reg. No. below his signature- More so to add to the authenticity of Prescriptions

Details pertaining to PATIENT

  • Patient’s Full Name
  • Patient’s age, weight
  • Patient’s address and telephone number (including Mobile No.)
  • Patient’s Sex

Details pertaining to MEDICINES

  • Name of the medicine – write the GENERIC NAME IN CAPITAL, with the brand name/comp any name in brackets ( coming from recent interpretation of MCI notificiation by DMC, Read Here. ) Strictly avoid abbreviation s or scribbling the name of the medicine/s.
  • Strength or potency of the medicine
  • Dosage Form- E.g. DT or tablet, or syrup etc
  • Dosage & dosing instructions
  • Total Quantity
  • Refill information- If the doctor wants the prescription to be filled/dispensed only once, he should clearly write that it “SHOULD NOT BE REFILLED” or “DO NOT DISPENSE MORE THAN ONCE” at the bottom of the prescription (or get it pre-printed on the prescription blank). If the doctor wants the prescription to be refilled, he should clearly write the number of times the prescription should be refilled. This is very important to deter patients from refilling (repurchasing) the same prescription again & again unless so directed by the doctor.

Besides giving the important key points, the guideline also lays down some important tips for doctors

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 Some Important Points to Remember ( Dos and Donts)

  • Letterheads/prescription blanks should be kept secure to avoid misuse.
  • Overwriting on a prescription should be avoided. In case of overwriting, doctor must initial each correction.
  • Prescription may be typed/computer generated, but it has to be signed and dated by Doctor in blue indelible ink.
  • It is illegal to allow nurses/assistants to write prescriptions/medication orders
  • Doctors should always encourage pharmacies to call them up on telephone in case of any problems/ discrepancies/doubts/queries in their prescription.
  • One should avoid having names of two or more doctors on the same prescription pad (even if it is a husband and wife team). More so if they belong to different specialties or systems of medicine.
  • It is unethical for a doctor to prescribe medicines for his own use other than the simplest OTC medicines. Self medication as a concept is to be discouraged.
  • A doctor should not use another doctor’s prescription pad, even with his consent. Conversely a doctor should not allow another other doctor to use his/her prescription pad
  • The doctor should not write s.o.s. against any medicine. It is not an accepted abbreviation. The doctor should use the correct abbreviation – p.r.n. (pro re nata) or the English equivalent – ‘as and when required’. In such cases, the minimum dose interval, the maximum daily dose and maximum duration and the maximum quantities to be dispensed, should be specified.
  • Avoid unnecessary use of units.
  • Doctors should be extra careful in prescribing habit forming medicines or drugs with potential for misuse like sedati ves, hypnoti c s, codeine containing cough syrups, Pentazocine, Buprenorphine, etc. Prescribers should inform the patient about their potential for habit forming, as well as the dangers of long term and excessive use.
  • Doctors should doubly careful in writing the potency & quantity of the drug/s. It is advisable to write the quantity in words also so that patients/clients do not manipulate the numbers.
  • Write in bold “DO NOT DISPENSE MORE THAN ONCE”, in the in the middle or bottom of the prescription (bearing in mind that sometimes what is written at the bottom is cut off by the patient).
  • Always write the potency for single ingredient drugs even if no other potency is marketed. You never know, when a new potency (higher or lower) would be introduced in the market.
  • In case of combination products, it is always advisable to write the potencies of all the individual components in order to eliminate any misinterpretation at the pharmacy.
  • Alterations/overwriting in the prescription are best avoided, but if any are made, they should be clear and unambiguous. Doctors should make sure to add their initials against the altered items.
  • Doctors should refrain from prescribing medicines of other systems of medicine.

To read the complete guideline click on the following link


Disclaimer: The views expressed in the above article are solely those of the author/agency in his/her private capacity and do not represent the views of Medical Dialogues.

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15 comment(s) on Writing a Prescription: Guidelines

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  1. Any way the smart pharmacist will palm off the generics he has in stock
    It\’s difficult to keep tract of each prescription
    There is no need to mention individual constituents for all medicines
    If you want to write simple Supradyn it will take a whole page!
    It\’s best to have a doctor decide what is best for his practice
    It\’s stupid to tell a 60 year old retd prof how to write a prescription
    If patient wants a good web site can be used to compare drugs and he can buy what he wants
    Why should you have personal details for all prescriptions
    If we write paracetamol only
    Its rediculous to have so much data
    What happens if there is a power cut or a patient in the station or park
    Doctors can decide what is best at that point of time

  2. What is the use guidelines ? When the medicines can be purchased without valid prescription . As pointed by many this is possible if the pharmacist does not issue medicines with out vald prescription .

  3. The doctors who are opposing this move wants to remain careless, wicked and negligent due to their bad habits of unethical money making medical practice for long long time, which is now going to be exposed by this format….

  4. user
    Amruta Gajphode July 14, 2019, 10:47 am

    What is the significance of resister number? And why doctors write the resister number of the patient?

  5. Excellent. It is extremely important for patients to get knowledge about doctors prescriptions, it would be legible if written in this format. In most of foreign countries this format is being used already. Unethical practices of indian doctors can be controlled by these guidelines. Certainly it will benefit general public in large.

  6. user
    Hemant Painter MD May 12, 2017, 4:20 pm

    I see the western culture of interference prevailing. A doctor cant write a prescription for himself?
    Growing trend of Legal and Political control of doctors and healthcare.
    Agree that Pharmacist s should not be allowed to give out medications without a prescription. Only then guidelines are valid for doctors.