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Prescription Drugs - Why Rx?

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Prescription Drugs – Why Rx?

Most of us have come to know Rx is the abbreviated symbol representing prescriptions and prescription drugs.  Have you ever wondered why and exactly what the history of the Rx symbol is?

There is no “x” following either “r” in prescription and drugs, the “r” is followed by a “u,” not an “x.”

Why do we call prescription drugs Rx?

These are a few of the theories that more people seem to agree on than any others:

Egyptian Mythology

According to The History Chanel, one version of this theory is the belief that the Rx symbol evolved from the Eye of Horus, an ancient Egyptian symbol associated with healing powers. This theory refers to an ancient Egyptian god named Horus, who had a very difficult time when it came to his eyes. One of poor Horus’s eyes was stolen, and his other eye got cut regularly by another god named Thoth. But it wasn’t all bad for Horus because his remaining eye would be restored every month. As a result, Horus’s eye came to represent healing, and, according to some accounts, this ancient symbol used to represent the eye had much in common with the letter “R” in use today.

Greco-Roman Culture

Another more popular theory is that it refers to the Greco-Roman god, Jupiter. As Health and Fitness History explains, Rx was derived from the astrological sign for Jupiter which was once placed on prescriptions to invoke that god’s blessing on the drug to help the patient recover. This practice in turn was passed down from Roman to European physicians.

Jupiter was considered a patron of medicine, and the most important deity in ancient Roman times preceding the adoption of Christianity, so presumably having his blessing on any drug would be viewed as a good step toward making the drug more effective. To shorten this blessing, they used the symbol of Mercury.

Commentators point out that the written character representing Jupiter looked somewhat like a modern-day “R” with a slanted slash across the letter’s “leg.” This would be roughly equivalent to a capital “R” and a lowercase “x” being written as a single unit, with the “x” attached to the leg of the “R.” Consequently, this is how the modern Rx symbol used to be written.

Since most keyboards do not have a single “Rx” key, we just write it out as Rx. But people who support the Rx symbol’s Jupiter theory often point out that “Rx” written out with two individual letters is not the correct form of the symbol representing prescriptions and prescription drugs. The form of “Rx” that they insist is correct is the form that corresponds with the symbol representing the Roman king of deities, Jupiter.

Another view of the Jupiter theory focuses on Jupiter the planet and not the god. Some ancients seemed to view the largest planet in our solar system as a place representing good luck, which you certainly can’t get enough of when it comes to matters of health and the effectiveness of drugs.

 Rx is a simple Latin abbreviation for the word “recipe.”

Lastly, the majority of the evidence seems to support the view that the slanted slash through the leg of the “R” in the original, single-unit version of the Rx symbol didn’t just refer to Jupiter. That same slash through the “R” could also indicate that a full word was abbreviated. In the case of the single-unit Rx, the abbreviation was for the word “recipe,” meaning “take.” (The word recipe had had the same function from the 13th through the 17th centuries.) It is customarily part of the superscription (heading) of a prescription.

By starting a prescription with Rx, your doctor is admonishing you to take the drug he/she is giving you at a certain frequency or time of day — as in Rx two aspirin and call me in the morning. Many say the “x” seems to be simply a popular addition to many abbreviations in the medical world, such as dx for diagnosis, sx for signs and symptoms, and hx for a patient’s history.

There it is the most popular theory to explain where that Rx symbol came from and what it stands for.

There may be some disagreement on all these theories, but it’s hard not to agree on the importance of a good Medicare Part D prescription drug plan (PDP) to help keep Rx costs within your budget. Contact Ashford Insurance for information about prescription drug plans designed to save you money.

Need help? Call us for an appointment at (817) 952-3153

Ashford Insurance is an independent health insurance agency specializing in Texas Medicare insurance and has been helping seniors since 2005.  Ashford Insurance is here to help you understand Medicare and health insurance in simple, plain terms that anyone can grasp.  We specialize in assisting folks who are Medicare eligible to learn about the coverage options available through the Medicare Health Insurance Program. 

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