Understanding What’s Written in Your Doctor’s Prescription | Southstar Drug

Jessa Garcia

Disclaimer: This article features medical and health topics for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to replace or serve as medical or professional advice for self-diagnosis, self-treatment, self-medication, or the like for any health-related condition or medical emergency. Make sure to consult a health care or medical professional for proper medical care, diagnosis, or treatment related to your situation. 


Understand what’s on your prescriptions with this guide from Southstar Drug.

Doctor prescribing medicine


A medical prescription or an “Rx” is a kind of letter written by a healthcare professional, usually a physician. When you show a pharmacist this letter, it serves as an authorization to sell you the medicines indicated.

Whether you’re buying from a traditional or an online drugstore, you’re going to need a medical prescription for prescription drugs. This is because these products are controlled substances, which must be taken correctly for them to be safe and effective. If you don’t follow the usage instructions, you may experience unpleasant consequences such as drug dependence or overdose.

That said, it can be a little confusing to read what’s in your prescription. Your doctor will of course explain to you what they’ve written; pharmacists also know what all the abbreviations stand for. However, there are times when you might forget a few details; this makes understanding a medical prescription a valuable skill to have.

Here are some things you need to keep in mind so you can better comprehend what your doctor’s prescription means:

The Parts of Your Prescription

There are distinct parts of a standard medical prescription. These are (1) the doctor information, (2) the patient information, and (3) the drug information.

The doctor information includes the doctor’s name, their license number, as well as the names and contact details of the institutions where they’re affiliated. Meanwhile, the patient information indicates the patient’s name, age, and sex. Other relevant data such as weight and allergies are also indicated, because these will affect the prescription itself.

Last but not least, the drug information will contain the following details:

  • The name of the medicine
  • The dosage of the medicine
  • How often and when to take the medicine
  • How to take the medicine properly

For some medications, such as for sleeping pills, your doctor may also write how many times a prescription can be refilled. Once this number has been reached, you cannot use the same prescription again; you have to have another consultation where you will be issued a new one.

There are also times when your doctor will require a specific brand of medicine. They may indicate this by writing “no substitution” or something similar. At the bottom of the prescription, there should be a space for your doctor’s signature and the date.

Nowadays, some medical professionals have electronic or digital prescriptions. You can use these when buying at online drugstores, or your doctor can send them directly to the pharmacy. What’s great about digital prescriptions is that they lower the chance of errors.

Common Abbreviations in Medical Prescriptions

One of the most popular jokes about doctors is that they have horrible handwriting, which makes prescriptions difficult to understand. Of course, not all doctors have “chicken scratch” penmanship. What’s more, you can always ask your doctor to explain the prescription. If there’s something you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask for clarifications.

In addition, pharmacists are there to interpret what’s written on your prescription. Still, as mentioned earlier, knowing how to read a medical prescription is definitely useful. This is particularly true if you or a family member has chronic health conditions.

The abbreviations you see in a prescription are derived from Latin words. Here are some of the most common ones you’ll see and what they mean:

  • ac - before meals
  • pc - after meals
  • int - between meals
  • hs - at bedtime
  • bid - twice a day
  • q - every (e.g., q3h is every 3 hours)
  • qd - every day
  • qod - every other day
  • qid - four times a day
  • tid - three times a day
  • ad lib - as needed
  • cap - capsule
  • tab - tablet
  • gtt - drops
  • po - by mouth
  • sl - sublingual or under the tongue

You may also see i, ii, iii, or iiii included in the drug information section. This is the number of doses you have to take, whenever you take the medicine. The exact dose—e.g., 1 mg, 1 mL, and the like—will also be indicated. There’s also “ss” which stands for one half.

Medication Safety Tips

Aside from following what’s written in the prescription, there are also other ways to ensure the effectiveness of your treatment. For example, you should always store your medications in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to maintain stability and potency. There’s no need to refrigerate, unless there’s a specific instruction for it. It’s also inadvisable to store different kinds of tablets or capsules in one bottle, because this can also affect the stability of the medicines.

If the medicines you buy come with cups or spoons, use those to ensure proper dosing. Should your prescription expire before you’re able to finish the course of treatment, dispose of the remaining medication and its container properly. Then, get in touch with your doctor for another consultation and prescription.

Last but certainly not least, all medications have side effects. If you experience any, especially severe ones or those not indicated in the packaging, call your doctor immediately.


With regards to medicines, it’s best to trust your doctor and pharmacists because they have the right education and training. Still, being able to understand a prescription is never a bad thing. At the very least, you’ll be better informed about your health.

To ensure all your prescription meds are new and effective, purchase them online at Southstar Drug. Take advantage of our FREE delivery service if you purchase a total of Php 1,499 and up for Metro Manila, Rizal, and select areas in Pampanga, Cavite, and Batangas. For the remaining provinces, you may enjoy FREE delivery service for purchases worth Php 5,000 and up.

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