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College Resource Center : Health Careers : Readings in Subject Area : Common Prescription Abbreviations

Common Prescription Abbreviations

Common Prescription Abbreviations Used in Writing Prescriptions
Abbreviation Translation
ac before meals
bid twice a day
cap capsule
DAW dispense as written
D/C discontinue
g gram*
gr grain
gtt drop
hs at bedtime
IM intramuscular
IV intravenously
L liter
mcg microgram
mEq milliequivalent
mL milliliter
NKA no known allergy
NKDA no known drug allergy
npo nothing by mouth
pc after meals
po by mouth
prn as needed
q every
qh every hour
q2h every 2 hours
qid four times a day
qs a sufficient quantity
stat immediately
tab tablet
tid three times daily
ud as directed
wk week

* The abbreviation gm is sometimes used for gram.

Note: Some prescribers may write abbreviations using capital letters or periods. However, periods should not be used with metrics or medical abbreviations as they can be a source of medication errors.

Problematic Prescription Abbreviations
Unapproved Abbreviation Correct Form to Use
µg microgram or mcg
qd every day
qod every other day
U units
MgSO4 magnesium sulfate
MSO4 morphine sulfate
no leading zero, .2
(often read as 2, creating a tenfold error) 0.2
Trailing zero, 2.0
(often read as 20, creating a tenfold error) 2

Note: Additional dangerous abbreviations are listed at www.ismp.org.

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