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According to the International Monetary Systems (IMS) Health Report, 4 billion prescriptions were written and dispensed in the United States in 2016. Seventy-seven percent of those were digital prescriptions.1 This reflects a need for prescribers and dispensers to fully understand prescriptive privileges and rational prescribing.2 The following outlines principles of pharmacotherapy, including general considerations of prescribing, rational prescribing of medications, types of prescription orders, safe prescribing practices including the importance of handwriting and electronic prescribing, adverse event reporting, and medication education.

It is essential that the prescriber and dispenser familiarize themselves with professional guidelines, state laws, and federal laws. In addition, they must understand the components of rational prescribing. Table D–1 provides key elements a prescriber should understand as well as useful resources.

Table D–1Pharmacotherapy Principles


Prescription orders can be provided in a variety of ways by authorized prescribers. Outpatient prescriptions may be written, verbally authorized by phone, faxed, or provided via electronic means. All outpatient prescriptions are subject to federal regulations and contain the same basic components. Laws and regulations for outpatient prescription requirements can vary from state to state, so prescribers should be knowledgeable of all applicable laws. The basic components of a prescription are listed below as well as numbered in Figure D–1.3


Example of a prescription.

  1. Prescriber information: name, address, and phone number

  2. Prescriber’s signature and prescriptive authority number or Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) number (if applicable)

  3. Patient information: full name and address, and weight and age if appropriate


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