A prescription drug is a licensed medicine that is regulated by legislation to require a prescription before it can be obtained. The term is used to distinguish it from over the counter drugs which can be obtained without a prescription. Different jurisdictions have different definitions of what constitutes a prescription drug.
In the United States, the Controlled Substances Act defines what requires a prescription.
In England a patient visits a doctor (usually a general practitioner in the first instance) who is able to prescribe medicines. Each item on the prescription is liable to a prescription charge of £6.40 (as of April 2004). Those requiring regular prescriptions may make a saving by purchasing a pre-payment certificate which covers the cost of all prescriptions required for four months (at a cost of £33.40) or the year (at a cost of £91.80). The money is used to help fund the National Health Service. The devolved legislatures of Scotland and Wales were examining, in 2004, proposals to scrap the charge and provide free prescriptions for all.
- Jerry Avorn, Powerful Medicines: The Benefits, Risks, and Costs of Prescription Drugs, Random House (2004), hardcover, 448 pages, ISBN 0375414835