Recipe abbreviations including Sig


Health professionals use prescription abbreviations based on Latin words. These abbreviations tell your pharmacist two things:

  • What medicine to give
  • Instructions on how to use this medicine

Learning to read shorthand will help you understand your recipes. When you know what medications you will receive, you can ask valid questions.

This article will help you learn to read their recipes. It will also discuss how understanding your prescriptions can help prevent medical errors.

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Avoid prescription errors

It is important to understand your recipes. This can reduce the chance of a medical error.

For example, your pharmacist may have made a mistake. If your doctor's letter is hard to read, you may have to wait longer to take your medicine. Worse still, you may be given the wrong dose or the wrong instructions.

There are several ways to get a prescription from pharmacies. Your healthcare provider can give you a handwritten or printed prescription to go to the pharmacy yourself. Your prescription can also be faxed or electronically submitted.

Many healthcare providers now write prescriptions electronically. This is where your healthcare provider sends your prescription electronically to the pharmacy. Some states require electronic prescriptions.

E-prescriptions help prevent medical errors that can be caused by hard-to-read writing.

Electronic prescriptions are especially important for controlled substances . Controlled substances are drugs whose use is prohibited by the government because of their potential for abuse. This includes opioids , powerful pain relievers that can be addictive.

Ask to see a printed copy of your prescription before you leave your PCP's office. Please review your prescription first to make sure it is filled correctly. If you think there has been an error, you can tell your pharmacist or call your doctor.

If you don't understand what your prescription says, get help. Your PCP or other health care provider in the office can answer your questions. This can help you detect and prevent the error.

Fast track

Ask your healthcare provider to list your condition on the prescription; for example, not just 'take it once a day' but 'take it once a day if your cholesterol is high ”. This will help you keep track of your medications and prescriptions.

What your recipe looks like

Handwritten recipes are usually written on pre-printed paper. The document will include the name, address, and phone number of your healthcare provider.

You can also see numbers, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) number, that allows your healthcare provider to prescribe controlled substances. These numbers can appear on the top or bottom of the paper.

There will also be space for your name and address, your age, date, and the signature of the healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider will write the following instructions in the blank field:

  • Name of medicine
  • Medication dosage
  • How often to take the medicine
  • When to take your medicine
  • How to take the medicine

The prescription will also tell you how much medicine the pharmacist should give you. It will also tell you how many times you can fill the recipe.

Common medical abbreviations

Your healthcare provider may use other abbreviations or symbols. If you don't understand them, ask your doctor or pharmacist for help.

The following table lists some commonly used abbreviations in recipes. You can also find an alphabetical list of abbreviations on ResourcePharm .

Medical abbreviations
How often to take the medication
at will freely as needed
bet twice daily
prn as necessary
what each
q3h every 3 hours
q4h every 4 hours
qd daily
qid four times a day
code on any other day
tid three times a day
When to take medication
AC Before meals
hs Bedtime
In t between meals
personal computer after eating
How many medications to take
a cap capsule
gtt drops
i, ii, iii or iiii number of doses (1, 2, 3 or 4)
mg milligrams
ml milliliters
H.H a half
tab Tablet
tablespoon tablespoon (15 ml)
tea spoon teaspoon (5 ml)
How to use the medicine
ad Right ear
Alabama left ear
co o with
overdose Right eye
SW left eye
UNED both eyes
upon orally
so ø without
sl sublingual
Top apply topically

DAW – Serve as written

The drugs have brand and generic names. Your healthcare provider can use any of these with your prescription. For example, sertraline is the generic brand name for Zoloft. Zoloft is a drug that is often prescribed to treat depression .

In many states, pharmacists can prescribe a generic drug for you, even if your doctor prescribes a brand name drug for you. However, in some cases, your healthcare provider may write "DAW" on your prescription.

DAW stands for "dose as written". This means that a pharmacist cannot legally give you a generic drug instead of a brand-name drug.

DAW-1 means that the healthcare provider needs a brand name drug. DAW-2 means that the patient has requested a brand name drug.

Generics are usually cheaper than brand name ones. Because of this, some insurance plans will penalize you for a DAW prescription. For example, you may have to pay the difference between the cost of a generic and a brand-name drug.


'DAW' means that your pharmacist cannot substitute a brand name for a generic drug. Some insurance plans may require you to pay the difference in cost for the brand name drug. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about prescription DAWs.

Sig – Prescription Label Instructions

Sig is the abbreviation of the Latin signetur. This means "let it be marked". You can see this in the recipe just before the instructions.

The Sig tells the pharmacy what to say on the drug label. This will ensure that you know how and when to take your medicine.

Examples of recipes

To diagnose high cholesterol :

  • Zocor 10 mg : This is the name of the medicine and the dosage.
  • Sig: i by qhs : His instructions: Take one tablet by mouth before bed.
  • Distribution # 90 : You will be given 90 tablets, which are enough for about three months.
  • Refill 0 times : Your healthcare professional indicated that there was no refill. This usually happens because you will need to consult your doctor before continuing with the medication. The tests can help determine if the drug will work or if you need a different dose.
  • DAW left blank : Your pharmacist will most likely prescribe simvastatin for you. This is the generic version of Zocor.

To diagnose type 2 diabetes :

  • Glucophage 500 mg : This is the name of the medicine and the dosage.
  • Next: I bet PC : His instructions: Take one tablet by mouth twice a day after meals. This means that you should take this medicine immediately after breakfast and immediately after dinner.
  • Distribution # 180 : You will be given 180 tablets, enough for three months.
  • Recharge 3 times : Your doctor has prescribed three doses. This medicine will last for one year. This may mean that your diabetes is "stable" and well controlled with this medicine.
  • DAW left blank : Your pharmacist will most likely prescribe metformin for you. This is the generic version of Glucophage.

To diagnose high blood pressure :

  • Diovan 40 mg : This is the name of the medicine and the dosage.
  • Sig: i po qd : His instructions are to take one tablet by mouth once a day. You will most likely be able to take this medication before or after a meal, as your healthcare provider has not instructed you otherwise.
  • Distribution # 90 : You will be given 90 tablets, which are enough for about three months.
  • Recharge 0 times : His healthcare professional indicated that there were no supplements. This usually happens because you will need to consult your doctor before continuing with the medication. The tests can help determine if the drug will work or if you need a different dose.
  • DAW left blank : Your pharmacist will most likely prescribe valsartan for you. This is the general version of Diovan.


Understanding your prescription can help you prevent medical errors. Always ask your doctor for a copy of your prescription. Use the table above to interpret your recipe.

Make sure the prescription label follows your healthcare professional's instructions. If you have any questions, ask your healthcare professional or pharmacist.

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