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Prescription Medicine (cont.)

Generic Medications vs Brand Names

Currently, most prescriptions written by health care practitioners will be filled at a pharmacy with a generic equivalent. Generics are identical in chemical structure to the brand name drug. The reason why most prescriptions are filled with generic equivalents is simple: generic medications cost less and work as well as the brand name drug. In most states, pharmacists are required by law to automatically substitute generic drugs for brand names drugs unless the health care practitioner writes "do not substitute" on the prescription, or the patient prefers the brand name drug.

  • An example of this cost differential is seen at the supermarket with acetaminophen. The name brand may cost about twice that of the store's generic equivalent. They both contain the same active drug at the same strength.
  • A few drugs are better in their name brand form than in their generic equivalents. A primary reason for this is the inert compounds packaged along with the active ingredient, which make them more or less likely to have unwanted side effects.
  • Ask the health care practitioner about choosing a brand name or a generic. Depending on a patient's insurance plan and the medication in question, insurance may or may not cover the brand name drug.

Making Sense of Abbreviations of Prescription Medications

Once your health care practitioner hands a patient a written prescription, it is likely that the patient will not be able to read it. Doctors and pharmacists speak to each other in shorthand using Latin abbreviations. Here are some of the abbreviations a person may see on their prescription paper:

  • ac = before meals
  • ad lib = at will
  • ad = right ear
  • as = left ear
  • bid = twice a day
  • cc = cubic centimeters
  • gtt = drop
  • hs = at bedtime
  • mEq = milliequivalents
  • mg = milligrams
  • mL = milliliters
  • od = right eye
  • os = left eye
  • pc = after meals
  • PO = by mouth
  • prn = as needed
  • qd = every day
  • qh = every hour
  • q4h = every 4 hours
  • qid = 4 times a day
  • tid = 3 times a day
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/11/2016

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Generic Drug Approvals Index »

The FDA has approved first-time generic formulations for oxycodone hydrochloride and ibuprofen tablets in 5 mg/400 mg strength, extended phenytoin sodium capsules in 30-mg strength, and fomepizole injectable in 1 g/mL strength.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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