Infographic: The Basics of Understanding Pharmacy Abbreviations

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[wp_ad_camp_4]Medication labels on pharmacy prescriptions can be difficult to understand because they contain abbreviations that medical professionals use as shorthand. While most consumers are not able to intuitively determine what these abbreviations mean, taking the time to understand them is important. Knowing how to read medication labels can help keep you safe from adverse drug reactions anddrug interactions. In order to help consumers better understand prescription labels, has put together a detailed infographic with the following information.

Laws on Writing Prescriptions

Not all medical professionals are allowed to write prescriptions under federal or local laws. Laws in each state allow physicians, physician assistants, dentists and other specific types of medical professionals to write out prescriptions.

Why Understand Prescription Abbreviations?

Roughly 82 percent of adults in the U.S. take at least one medication, and 2 million serious adverse drug reactions occur each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of adverse drug reactions is expected to increase due to the development of new drugs, new uses for older drugs, an aging population in the U.S. and more insurance coverage for medications. Consumers who know how to read prescription drug labels will be better informed about the types of medications they take, which can help lower the risk of adverse reactions or dangerous interactions.

What’s on a Prescription Label?

Prescription labels contain specific information about medications, including the name of the drug, dosage and number of authorized refills. This information can help you understand what kind of medication you’re taking, how much the prescription contains, how much you should take at a time and how often you should take it. Understanding this information can help reduce the risk of medication errors, such as taking the wrong dosage.

Prescription Abbreviations

Medical professionals typically use Latin abbreviations for writing out prescriptions. These abbreviations include helpful information, such as:

  • When to take medication: For example, “pc” means after meals.
  • Where to use medication: For example, “po” means by mouth.
  • How often to take medication: For example, “qhr” means every hour.
  • How much medication to take: For example, “ss” means one half.

Generic Drugs

Medical professionals sometimes prescribe generic drugs rather than brand name drugs to make medicine more affordable for patients. These drugs are considered just as safe and as effective as brand name drugs, but they are considerably less expensive. Talk to your doctor or medical professional about your options.

It pays to be educated about pharmacy prescriptions, how to read medication labels and which prescriptions can be safely taken together. Take a look at the infographic, “Decoding Your Prescriptions: Understanding Pharmacy Abbreviations” for a more detailed explanation of pharmacy prescriptions.


Infographic: Decoding prescription abbreviations. Submitted by for pharma mirror’s readers.

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