Washington State nixes cursive scripts

August 21, 2006

Washington State pharmacists are wondering if they are expected to be the penmanship police since a new law decrees that prescriptions in cursive handwriting are no longer considered to be legible.

Washington State pharmacists are wondering if they are expected to be the penmanship police since a new law decrees that prescriptions in cursive handwriting are no longer considered to be legible.

As of June 7, legible Rxs are defined as hand printed, typed, or electronically generated, said Steven Saxe, executive director, Washington State Board of Pharmacy. Even if an Rx written in cursive handwriting is perfectly readable, it is still not considered to be legible, and pharmacists must act accordingly.

"We instruct pharmacists to treat it like any other illegible script," said Saxe. "Our uniform disciplinary act requires all practitioners ... to adhere to all the laws and rules."

The legislation, dubbed the Scribble Bill, drew a lot of attention as the media had a little fun with the perennial topic of doctors' poor penmanship. "I was surprised by the interest, but it's one way to get the word out," said Saxe. "It's not only docs reading the newspaper, but patients saying, 'I thought this had to be printed.' And the goal is patient safety."

THE AUTHOR, a former editor at Drug Topics, is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.