View Full Version : Prescriptions without instructions

01-30-2008, 11:45 PM
Here's some prescription trivia I ran across this evening.

You know how you always see the proper form for a period prescription, complete with "ter in die" or some similar instruction as the last line? Well apparently, in Washington D.C. at least, it wasn't done like that in actual practice, until about the time of the war.

The following is from Personal Reminiscenses and Recollections by Samuel C. Busey, M.D., 1895.

During this period [in the early part of the author's practice which began in 1848] prescription blanks were not used. Some physicians supplied themselves with slips of paper, but others did not carry with them either paper or pencil. I have seen prescriptions written upon the margin of a newspaper, and, I believe, I was the first physician in this city to write the directions for the administration of the medicine upon the prescription. To this fact my attention was called by a very intelligent druggist named Schwartz, whose store was located on Pennsylvania Avenue betwen Second and Third Streets, N.W., who informed me that a prescription of mine was the first he had ever seen with the written directions. The use of prescription blanks in this city was an outgrowth of the war, and probably originated with the druggists as an advertisement to the patrons of those physicians who might accept and use such as were supplied by them. A few never accepted such generous donations, but had printed their own blanks. Now [1890s] very few, if any, use blanks with druggists' advertisement indorsements.

Hank Trent

01-31-2008, 06:33 AM
Interesting you mention that. I have bookmarked Edward Parrish's Introduction to Practical Pharmacy. On page 506 he has several examples of pre-printed slips which were to be glued, tied or otherwise attached to pill boxes, medicine bottles, or paper wrappings. They had partial pre-printed instructions for use on them. and this was 1856 -

Take spoonful every hour as directed by Dr. .
Take drops times a day by Dr. .

That's for the instructions to the patient, of course; the actual prescription handed to the druggist (if at all) might be hand-written on the aforementioned slip of paper, per the quote above.

Maybe precsriptions were not written out because the typical small-town physician himself compounded the medicine in his own office, thus removing the necessity of the apothecary? It might also explain why apothecaries sold other supplies like house paints, perfumes, candies and the like (all chemical cousins to medicinal compounds)?