Medication Order Entry / Fill Process PTCB Test Prep

50 Must-Know Pharmacy Abbreviations!

Sep 14th, 2019
pharmacy abbreviations

What are pharmacy abbreviations?

One of the central responsibilities of pharmacy technicians is their ability to safely and accurately interpret prescriptions. Pharmacy abbreviations are often used on prescriptions as shorthand for how the medicine should be taken. Here, we review the primary pharmacy abbreviations you need to know for the PTCB exam.

Understanding a prescription is important.

Pharmacy technicians need to interpret the prescription and correctly input those details into a computerized patient database. Incorrectly interpreting prescriptions means that the pharmacist may inaccurately prescribe either the wrong medicine or perhaps the wrong dose/directions for use to the patient.

Technicians are not only obliged to interpret the prescription but also to be aware of any details that are missing. We have already examined the mandated details that must appear on prescriptions. Technicians must ensure that each prescription is valid and contains the details that it is legally obliged to have.

The pharmacy abbreviations tabulated below contain all abbreviations you are expected to know for the PTCB exam, but also for clinical practice. It’s imperative that you practice PTCB questions on these pharmacy abbreviations. The more practice, the better and more fluent your knowledge of this form of clinical communication.

Top 50 Pharmacy Abbreviations

If you find learning these prescription abbreviations difficult, try to learn more about the Latin derivations that underpin them.

The more Latin you know, the easier it becomes to translate what these abbreviations mean. You probably know more Latin derivations and roots than you think you do. Many clinical and pharmacy-related vocabulary, after all, also has Latin-based roots.

Pharmacy Abbreviation Meaning
ac Before meals
ad Right ear
am Morning
as Left ear
ASAP As soon as possible
au Both ears
bid Two times daily
tid Three times daily
qid Four times daily
q4h Every 4 hours
q Every
c With
d Day
DAW Dispense as written
gtt Drop
h or hr Hour
i One
ii Two
iii Three
iv Four
od Right eye
opth Ophthalmic (eye-related)
os Left eye
otic For the ear
ou Each eye
p After
pc After meals
pm Evening
po By mouth
pr Rectally
prn As needed
pv Vaginally
qd Every day
qs Quantity sufficient to make
qsad Add quantity to make specific volume
s Without
sig Write (on the label)
sl Under the tongue
sol. Solution
stat At once or now
supp Suppository
ud As directed
SubQ Subcutaneous
syr. Syrup
tab. Tablet
tbsp Tablespoon
TPN Total parenteral nutrition
w/o Without
tsp Teaspoon
top Topical
ung. Ointment
x Times

Take Home Message

Pharmacy abbreviations is one of the core topics of the PTCB exam.

It’s vital that you understand how to interpret each of these abbreviations – not just on their own but also as part of wider prescription instructions, too.

For instance, let’s take the following three examples:

  • ii gtts ou qid ud = apply two drops to each eye 4 times daily as directed
  • 1 tab pr qd prn = insert 1 tablet rectally each day as needed
  • iii tab po tid x 7d = take 3 tablets orally three times daily for 7 days

Knowing prescription abbreviations, then, eliminates the risk of dispensing errors.

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PTCB Test Prep Author


Elaine Walker

Elaine joined PTCB Test Prep in 2017, currently serving as the lead product development manager overseeing both course development and quality improvement. Mrs. Walker is a graduate of California State University and has worked as a pharmacy technician for over twenty years – with particular interests in pediatric pharmacy, extemporaneous compounding, and hospital pharmacy. Over the past 8-years, she has helped prepare thousands of students for the PTCB examination.