"Rx" (℞) is often used as a short form for prescription drug in North America- a contraction of the Latin word " recipe" (an imperative form of "recipere") meaning "take". Prescription drugs are often dispensed together with a monograph (in Europe, a Patient Information Leaflet or PIL) that gives detailed information about the drug.
The use of prescription drugs has been increasing since the 1960s. In the U.S., 88% of older adults (62–85 years) use at least 1 prescription drug, while 36% take at least 5 prescription medicines concurrently.
The categories defined by the SUSMP are:
Similar to the UK, the patient visits a health practitioner, such as a doctor, nurse, dentist, podiatrist, etc., who is able to prescribe the drug.
Many prescriptions issued by health practitioners in Australia are covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, a scheme that provides subsidised prescription drugs to residents of Australia to ensure that all Australians have affordable and reliable access to a wide range of necessary medicines. When purchasing a drug under the PBS the maximum price a consumer pays is the patient co-payment contribution, which, as of January 1, 2017, is A$38.80 for general patients. Those covered by government entitlements (low-income earners, welfare recipients, Health Care Card holders, etc.) and those covered under the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS) have a reduced co-payment, which is $6.30 in 2017. These co-payments are compulsory and cannot be discounted by pharmacies under any circumstances.
Private prescriptions are issued for medicines not covered on the PBS, or being used off-label, for indications other than those covered by the PBS. The patient pays the pharmacy for medicines privately prescribed.
A patient visits a physician or dentist authorised to prescribe drugs and certain other medical items, such as blood glucose-testing equipment for . Also, suitably qualified and experienced nurses and pharmacists may be independent prescribers. Both can prescribe all POMs but pharmacists are not allowed to prescribe schedule 1 controlled drugs. and have had limited prescribing rights since the mid-nineties, before which prescriptions for dressings and simple medicines would have had to have been signed by a doctor. Once issued, a prescription is taken by the patient to a pharmacy, which dispenses the medicine.
Most prescriptions in the UK are , subject to a standard charge unrelated to what is dispensed. The NHS prescription fee was increased to £8.60 per item in England on 1 April 2017; prescriptions are free of charge if prescribed and dispensed in NHS Scotland, NHS Wales or Northern Ireland, and for some patients in England, such as inpatients, children, over 60s, those with certain medical conditions, and claimants of certain benefits. The pharmacy charges the NHS the actual cost of the medicine, which may vary from a few pence to hundreds of pounds. A patient can consolidate prescription charges using a prescription payment certificate (informally a "season ticket"), effectively capping costs at £29.10 per quarter or £104.00 per year.
Outside the NHS, private prescriptions are issued by private medical practitioners, and sometimes under the NHS for medicines not covered by the NHS. NHS supply beyond three months' worth is not covered, and must be purchased privately. A patient pays the pharmacy the normal price for medicine prescribed outside the NHS.
Survey results published by Ipsos MORI in 2008 found that around 800,000 people in England were not collecting prescriptions or getting them dispensed due to the cost, a figure which was the same as in 2001. Ipsos MORI:Prescription Costs A Barrier To Healthcare, 27 February 2008
The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) was enacted into law by the Congress of the United States in 1970. The CSA is the federal U.S. drug law under which the manufacture, importation, possession, use and distribution of certain substances is regulated. The legislation created five schedules (classifications) with varying qualifications for a substance to be included in each.
The safety and effectiveness of prescription drugs in the US is regulated by the federal Prescription Drug Marketing Act of 1987. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is charged with implementing this law. Misuse or abuse of prescription drugs can lead to adverse drug events, including those due to dangerous drug interactions. According to one study, as many as fifteen percent of older American adults are at risk of potential major drug-drug interactions.
The package insert for a prescription drug contains information about the intended effect of the drug and how it works in the body. It also contains information about side-effects, how a patient should take the drug, and cautions for its use, including warnings about allergies.
As a general rule, over-the-counter drugs (OTC) are used to treat conditions not necessarily requiring care from a healthcare professional and have been proven to meet higher safety standards for self-medication by patients. Often a lower strength of a drug will be approved for OTC use, whereas higher strengths require a prescription to be obtained; a notable case is ibuprofen, which has been widely available as an OTC analgesic since the mid-1980s but is still available by prescription in doses up to four times the OTC dose for use in cases of severe pain not adequately controlled by the lower, OTC strength.
Herbal medicine, , , , and other are regulated by the FDA as dietary supplements. Because specific health claims cannot be made, the consumer must make informed decisions when purchasing such products.
By law, American pharmacies operated by "membership clubs" such as Costco and Sam's Club must allow non-members to use their pharmacy services and may not charge more for these services than they charge as their members.
Physicians may legally prescribe drugs for uses other than those specified in the FDA approval; this is known as off-label use. Drug companies, however, are prohibited from marketing their drugs for off-label uses.
Large U.S. retailers that operate pharmacies and pharmacy chains use inexpensive generic drugs as a way to attract customers into stores. Several chains, including Walmart, Kroger (including subsidiaries such as Dillons), Target, and others, offer $4 monthly prescriptions on select generic drugs as a customer draw. Publix Supermarkets, which has pharmacies in many of their stores, offers free prescriptions on a few older but still effective medications to their customers. The maximum supply is for 30 days.
A number of prescription drugs are commonly abused, particularly those marketed as , including fentanyl (Duragesic), hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin), oxymorphone (Opana), propoxyphene (Darvon), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), and diphenoxylate (Lomotil).
A study conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration covered over 100 drugs, prescription and over-the-counter. The results showed that about 85% of them were safe and effective as far as 15 years past their expiration date. Joel Davis, a former FDA expiration-date compliance chief, said that with a handful of exceptions—notably nitroglycerin, insulin, some liquid antibiotics; outdated tetracyclines can cause Fanconi syndrome—most expired drugs are probably effective.
The American Medical Association (AMA) issued a report and statement on Pharmaceutical Expiration Dates. The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide notes that, with rare exceptions, "it's true the effectiveness of a drug may decrease over time, but much of the original potency still remains even a decade after the expiration date". Drug Expiration Dates - Do They Mean Anything?. Harvard Health Publications. Retrieved on February 15, 2011.
The expiration date is the final day that the manufacturer guarantees the full potency and safety of a medication. Drug expiration dates exist on most medication labels, including prescription, over-the-counter (OTC) and dietary (herbal) supplements. U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers are required by law to place expiration dates on prescription products prior to marketing. For legal and liability reasons, manufacturers will not make recommendations about the stability of drugs past the original expiration date.