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[L. praescriptio, an order, rule]
A written direction or order for dispensing and administering drugs. It is signed by a physician, dentist, or other practitioner licensed by law to prescribe such a drug. Historically, a prescription consists of four main parts: 1) Superscription, represented by the symbol ℞, which signifies Recipe, meaning “take”; 2) Inscription, containing the ingredients; 3) Subscription, directions to the dispenser how to prepare the drugs; and 4) Signature, directions to the patient how to take the dosage; the physician's signature, address, and telephone number; the date; and whether the prescription may be refilled. When applicable, the physician's Drug Enforcement Administration number must be included. Many states also require that the prescriber indicate on the prescription whether or not a generic drug may be substituted for the trade name equivalent.
In the U.S. each year, about 3 billion prescriptions are written in health care offices, and still more are written for inpatients.
Unused prescription pads should be kept in a secure place to prevent their being misused or stolen. Each prescription should be numbered consecutively. One should never sign a prescription blank in advance. The prescriber should use ink to prevent changes being made and not use prescription pads for writing notes or memos.