What is PRN?

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What is PRN?
PRN stands for the Latin term ‘pro re nata’ which is translated as ‘when necessary’ or for as circumstances require, as needed or when occasion arises. This is a very common term used in the medical field especially in giving prescriptions. Thus, if your doctor gives you a prescription with this abbreviation, you know that the medications are to be taken ‘only when necessary’.

It is the general abbreviated term in reference to different types of medication dosages, which are prescribed but are not scheduled for intake at least in a structured time frame. The usual setting for this type of prescription is that the administration of the medication is left to the discretion of the caregiver or nurse in charge of the patient. Alternatively, in other cases when the patient is not in a hospital, it is left to the prerogative of the patient himself. PRN medication intake is not to imply or to exceed what is prescribed just for daily regimen.

There are common types of medications used with PRN administration. Some of these medications include analgesics like paracetamol or acetaminophen. There are also drugs which are only taken when circumstances arise such as hydrocodone, antianxiety medicines like Ativan or lorazepam. Laxatives such as docusate, hypnotic medication such as eszopiclone or Lunesta are also in this category. Antiemetics drugs such as dimenhydrinate (Gravol) or ondansetron are medications of the same type.

The aforementioned medications are never considered maintenance. PRN is usually added to the medications in the prescription for treatment of different symptoms. Patients are required to take these pills if they experience certain symptoms such as constipation, pain or fever, anxiety, insomnia and nausea or vomiting. However, these are medications which are generally not prescribed as maintenance drugs. PRN is also a term used for blood tests.

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