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The importance of medical prescriptions

[By McLawrence Phiri]

A prescription is a written order which gives instructions or calls for the preparation, dispensing and administration of a medicine to a named patient. This can be done in handwriting or electronically by a registered prescriber who can be a medical doctor/licentiate, clinical officer, nurse, dentist, or surgeon.

There are two main categories of prescriptions, namely pre-compound prescriptions for an already existing drug, e.g., Ciprofloxacin 500mg and extemporaneous (compounding) prescriptions directing the pharmacy personnel to prepare, mix, assemble, pack, and label a medicinal product for an individual patient.

A prescription is considered valid when it has the following: prescribers’ details such as name, title, and contact number. Name, age, and address of the patient, date, instructions on how to administer the medicine, prescriber’s signature, prescriber code, and date stamp. However, pharmacy personnel are reserved the right to “substitute” drugs where they see fit.

Though small and simple in its design, a prescription serves many functions. Among these are protection of the prescriber, dispenser, as well as the consumer of the medicine in the event of unforeseen occurrences. It also promotes rational drug use, which, if not checked, may lead a patient to drug resistance or toxicity. It can also help to retrieve information during reviews and can also be used to ascertain information when ordering and restocking drugs. It also goes without saying that adherence to prescription instructions is very cardinal. In such an event, if one takes less than or more than the prescribed dosage, it may not achieve full or intended therapeutic effect and can instead cause problems like resistance, toxicity, treatment failure or organ damage.

As a matter of fact, some medicines are “Prescription Only Medicine (POM)”, like; antibiotics, anti-malarials, anti-psychotics, and pain killers for severe pain management etc., without which a patient is denied access or turned away. Therefore, it is important that you follow all the instructions given to you on the prescription on how and when to take the medicines.

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