Once you decide to be a Pharmacist, you will read many prescriptions. All of these prescriptions are written in shorthand also known as prescription pharmacy abbreviations.

As a student, you know the terms and abbreviations as they are often taught in exams and terms in Pharmacy schools and colleges.

Practically, when a Pharmacist stands behind the counter to refill these prescriptions they might face a lot of difficulty in understanding what a doctor wants to write for his patient.

All of these abbreviations can be learnt easily with practice and always double-checking with the Pharmacists in charge.

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Rx Full form in Medical Setting?

Rx meaning in medical is “prescription”. Rx is often misread with Px as an alternate which is not true. Px means “procedure” code or “prognosis”. Including a big symbol of Rx on every prescription in medical settings (hospitals, clinics) is a good practice.

How to write prescription abbreviations?

First, you must be aware about the shorthand abbreviations and their meanings. There is no need to remember all, as you can only remember some according to your practice.

A very common example is “ODHS” on a prescription. ODHS on a prescription stands for “once daily in the night time“. This is allowed to be used for all medicines intended to be used before bed at night. A perfect example of such medicine is “panadol night” given for the relief of bedtime pain.

These prescription abbreviations are for pharmacists, nurses and other doctors to understand this shorthand.

Similar to this

  • odpc meaning in prescription “once a day post meals”
  • qds meaning in prescription “to be taken four times”
  • qd meaning in prescription “once daily”
  • hs means in medical prescriptions “once daily at night”
  • rx means a “prescription”
  • od meaning in prescription “once daily”
  • bd meaning in prescription “twice daily”
  • PRN meaning in prescription “as needed”
  • refill meaning in prescription “more than once time prescription can be used”
  • disp meaning in prescription “dispense”; followed by a number of tablets
  • qhs meaning in prescription “once every night”

As per ISMP Guidelines, it is discouraged to use abbreviations in medical settings due to chances of confusion and misinterpreting.

List of Common Pharmacy Prescription Abbreviations

These medical pharmacies or medical abbreviations are also sometimes known as prescription shorthand. Mostly these are Latin abbreviations of pharmacy.

1/2 tabletone-half tabletSpell out half tablet or use reduced font-size fractions½ tablet))
5-ASA5-aminosalicylic acidBetter to spell out full drug name 5-aminosalicylic acid; may be misinterpreted as 5 aspirin tablets.)
a.c.before mealsDerived from Latin, ante cibum
a.d.right earDerived from Latin, auris dextra
a.m.morning; before noonDerived from Latin, ante meridiem
a.p.after lunch(Derived from Latin, post prandium)
a.r.as required
a.s.left earDerived from Latin, auris sinistra
a.s.a.p.as soon as possible
a.u.both earsDerived from Latin, auris utraque
aaof eachDerived from Latin, ana
AAAapply to affected area
achsbefore meals and at bedtime
ADright earSpell out right ear; may be mistaken for ODright eye))
ad lib.as much as desired; freelyDerived from Latin, ad libitum (“at one’s
APAPacetaminophenSpell out acetaminophen; not everyone familiar with abbreviation.)
aq.waterDerived from Latin, aqua
ASleft earSpell out left ear; may be mistaken for OSleft eye))
ASAaspirinBetter to spell out full drug name aspirin.)
ATCaround the clock
AUeach earSpell out each ear; may be mistaken for ODeach eye))
AZTzidovudineBetter to spell out full drug name zidovudine; can be mistaken as azithromycin, azathioprine, or aztreonam.)
b.i.d.twice a dayDerived from Latin, bis in die
bib.drinkDerived from Latin, bibe
bidtwice a day
BMIbody mass index
BPblood pressure
bpmbeats per minute
BSAbody surface area
bucc.inside cheekDerived from Latin, bucca
c.withDerived from Latin, cum; often written with a bar
above it
C&Sculture and sensitivity
CaCO3calcium carbonate
CADcoronary artery disease
capcapsuleSpell out capsule; may be confused with cancer of the prostateCAP).)
CBCcomplete blood count
cccubic centimeter (cm3)Less commonly used as an abbreviation for cum cibo (“with
cccubic centimeterUse mL; can be mistaken as “u”units).)
cmcentimeterAlso used as an abbreviation for cream
CNScentral nervous system
CNScentral nervous system
COPDchronic obstructive pulmonary disease
CRcontrolled release
cr, crmcream
CSFcerebrospinal fluid
CTcomputed tomography
CXRchest xray
d.dayDerived from Latin, dies
d.c.; d/cdiscontinue
D/C, dc, or discdiscontinue or dischargeMultiple meanings; spell out discontinue or discharge.)
DAWdispense as written
DAWdispense as written
EMSemergency medical services
ENTear, nose, and throat
EODevery other day
ER; XRextended-release
etandDerived from Latin, et
f., ft.make; let it be madeDerived from Latin, fiat
F/Ufollow up
FXDfor 10 daysX = Roman numeral for 10
g, gmgram
GFRglomerular filtration rate
gtt.dropDerived from Latin, gutta
h., hr., hor.hourDerived from Latin, hora
h.s.at bedtimeDerived from Latin, hora somni (“at the hour of
h.s.e.at every bedtime(Derived from Latin, hora somni et)
HCT; HCTZhydrochlorothiazide
I.V.D.intravascular device
ICUintensive care unit
IUinternational unit
lbpoundDerived from Latin, libra
mcg; μgmicrogramμ = Greek letter mu
MDPMedrol DosepakPre-dosed packaging of methylprednisolone (Medrol)
NPOnil per os (nothing by mouth)
NSAIDnonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugDrug class that includes ibuprofen (Motrin)
o.d.right eyeDerived from Latin, oculus dexter
o.s.left eyeDerived from Latin, oculus sinister
o.u.both eyesDerived from Latin, oculus uterque
ODToral disintegrating tablet
OTCover the counter
p.c.after mealsDerived from Latin, post cibum
p.m.evening; after noonDerived from Latin, post meridiem
p.o.by mouth; orallyDerived from Latin, per os
p.r.rectallyDerived from Latin, per rectum
p.r.n.as needed (for)Derived from Latin, pro re nata
p.v.vaginallyDerived from Latin, per vaginam
PAprior authorization
PACUpost anesthesia care unit
PETpositron emission tomography
PICCperipherally inserted central catheter
PRBCpacked red blood cells
PT/INRprothrombin time/international normalized ratio
qevery; perDerived from Latin, quaque
q.a.d.; q.o.d.every other dayDerived from Latin, quaque alternis die
q.a.m.every morning; every day before noonDerived from Latin, quaque anti meridiem
q.d.every dayDerived from Latin, quaque die
q.h.every hour(Derived from Latin, quaque hora)
q.h.s. or odhsevery day at bedtimeDerived from Latin, quaque hora somni
q.i.d.4 times a dayDervied from Latin, quater in die
q.p.m.every evening; every day after noonDerived from Latin, quaque post meridiem
q.s.a sufficient quantityDerived from Latin, quantum sufficiat
q.w.every week
q1-2; q. 1-2 h.; q1-2°every 1 to 2 hours1 and 2 can be substituted with any number
q12; q. 12 h.; q12°every 12 hours12 can be substituted with any number
RxprescriptionDerived from Latin, recipere (‘to take”)
s.withoutDerived from Latin, sine; often written with a bar
above it
SC; SQ; SubQsubcutaneous
sig.write; labelDerived from Latin, signa
SL; s.l.sublingually; under the tongue
SOBshortness of breath
SSRIselective serotonin reuptake inhibitorDerived from Latin, statism
stat.immediatelyDerived from Latin, sine; is often written with a bar
above it
t.i.d.3 times a dayDerived from Latin, ter in die
TADtake as directed
troch.lozengeDerived from Latin, trochiscus
u.d., ut. dict.as directedDerived from Latin, ut dictum
ung.ointmentDerived from Latin, unguentum
w/fwith food; with meals

Mostly Pharmacy abbreviations are derived from commonly used words available in Latin, and Arabic language. Later on, these are adapted in the English language with a little change due to syllables and dialect.

Misread or Error Prone Pharmacy Abbreviations

There are some pharmacy abbreviations which are now not encouraged to be used by JCIA & ISMP. Let’s have a look at some of them. This is due to errors reported over the years and possible issues created with it.

a.u., a.s., a.d.Latin for both, left and right ears; the “a” can be misread to be an “o” and interpreted to mean both, right or left eyes
btintended to mean “bedtime”, but can be misread as “bid” or twice daily.
d/ccan mean “discontinue” or “discharge”
h.s.can mean half strength or “hour of sleep”
IJintended to mean “injection”, but can be misread as “IV”
INintended to mean “intranasal”, but can be misread as “IM” or “IV”
IUintended to mean “international unit”, but can be misread as “IV” or “10”
o.d., o.s., o.u.the “o” can be misread as “a”.
o.d.can mean “once daily” or “right eye”.
OJintended to mean “orange juice” but can be misread as “OD” or “OS”
q4PMintended to mean “at 4 PM”, but can be misread as every 4 hours
q.d., q1dintended to mean “every day” but can be misread as “q.i.d.” or 4 times a day
q.o.d.meant “every other day” but the “o” can be interpreted as “.” or “i” resulting in double or eight times the frequency
SCmeant “subcutaneous” but mistaken for “5Q” or 5 every dose
SQmeant “units” but mistaken for “0”, and “4” (so “4U” can become “40” and the “U” is
assumed), or misread as “cc” when poorly written; conversely cc can be mistaken
for “U”
ssintended to mean “sliding scale” or “1/2”, but can be mistaken as “55”
SSI, SSRIintended to mean “sliding scale insulin” or “sliding scale regular insulin”, but can be mistaken as “strong solution of iodine” or “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor
T.I.Wmeant 3 times a week but mistaken for twice a week
Umeant “units” but mistaken for “0”, “4” (so “4U” can become “40” and the “U” is
assumed), or misread as “cc” when poorly written; conversely cc can be mistaken
for “U”
μgmeant “microgram” but mistaken for “mg”; this 1000-fold error can cause
potentially fatal misunderstandings
SID or S.I.D.is not a recognized abbreviation and should not be used

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