Medical prescriptions

When you go to a doctor, he or she may say you need medicine. (Medicine is often called medication or drugs in the USA.) Doctors write medical prescriptions for medication that will help you. You can take the medical prescription to your local drugstore, or pharmacy.


closeup of medical prescription bottles

What is a medication?

Medicines are substances that cure sickness and disease. Sometimes they help to stop symptoms when you are ill. Americans call medicine “medications” or “drugs.” Sometimes they say “prescription drugs” to be clear that they are not talking about illegal drugs. Doctors write medical prescriptions for these prescription drugs.

What are medical prescriptions?

Medical prescriptions are orders for medicine. The prescription is a note from your doctor you can take to the pharmacy or drugstore so that the pharmacist knows you can have this medication.

What is a pharmacy?

A pharmacy is a place that prepares medical prescriptions and sells medicines. You can tell your provider the name and address of a pharmacy that is convenient for you. All drugstores, many hospitals and clinics, and some supermarkets have pharmacies.

Both your doctor and pharmacist should confirm that you understand how to take your medication. If you are confused or have any questions or doubts, ask! They will want to help you understand.

What is an over-the-counter medicine?

In some cases, the doctor may recommend an “over-the-counter” medication. Over-the-counter-medications are medicines for which you don’t need a prescription. You can simply walk into any drugstore and buy them.

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Generic and brand name medications

Brand name medications are medicines that are owned and sold under a specific company’s name. They are frequently newer medicines or drugs for specialized conditions.

Generic medications are cheaper versions of brand-name medications that work the same as their brand-name counterparts.  If your doctor writes you a prescription for a medication, it’s usually a good idea to ask if there is a generic version available because it will save you money.

Follow your doctor’s medical prescriptions

Always follow your doctor’s instructions regarding your medical prescriptions. Here are some simple tips for you to follow:

  • Write down all the medications that you take, and write down whether they are prescribed by a doctor or if they are over-the-counter medications.
  • List any vitamins or other supplements you take.
  • Always take your medication at the same time of day and according to the doctor’s instructions.
  • Ask your doctor how you need to take them – for example, with water, with food, or on an empty stomach.