How to decipher an illegible prescription?

Pharmacists often face a common problem – the one of deciphering an illegible prescription. Let's take this example (received by fax):

The patient is telling us that this is for his cancer.

The prescription is in French, "co" is the abbreviation for "comprimé" which means tablet.

Since the name of the medication is not written very clearly, ideally you will need to contact the prescriber to confirm the prescription. And it may take some time – at least 5 minutes, in the worst-case scenario – several days. With the site however, you can decipher this prescription in less than a minute. Let's see how.

First, what can we see on the prescription? The name of the medication ends with "mide", and the strength is 4 mg. Ok, with that in mind let's go to the search form on the home page. We will need the advanced search options. For that click on "More options":

In the field Active Ingredient enter "mide" and in the field Strength enter "4". You can also specify the number of ingredients – 1.

Click on the Search button. An advanced search usually takes more time, so you will need to be patient. The correct answer is pomalidomide (Pomalyst 4 mg). Note that in the search results the solid dosage forms, such as tablets or capsules, will be marked in bold.

Let's click on this drug to see more details. Right away, we can see the description of the pill (in case we will also need to identify it). And there's also a quick link to the Health Canada website (check this note).

On the Health Canada website let's open the product monograph:

In the monograph we see:

The recommended starting dose of POMALYST® is 4 mg once daily, taken orally on Days 1-21 of repeated 28-day cycles (21/28 days) until disease progression.

Since the dosage is written very clearly on the prescription, that confirms us that we have the right drug.

Of course, the site doesn't replace your professional judgment. In your practice you may encounter different situations, and contacting the prescriber to confirm the prescription may be the only option available to you.