Dispense As Written Codes Explained

Dispense as Written Codes are a vital part of dispensing prescriptions in a pharmacy.

These are simple, one or two digit codes that provide information to the pharmacist. The DAW codes are as follows:

0 = No product selection indicated.

This is the same as a blank, it just means there are no special instructions.

It is used when there are no special product selection instructions required, such as when there is only one available product of this type.

DAW 0 is the most commonly used code; it is used when the generic is used in place of a brand name product.

1 = Brand product is 'medically necessary' and therefore no substitution is allowed by the prescriber.

This would be used when a brand name drug has consistently received better results than a generic version and so a specific brand name version is deemed required.

This must be dispensed exactly as written.

2 = Substitution allowed- patient requested product dispensed.

This means the patient chose the specific brand being dispensed.

This is used when generic substitution is allowed, but the patient wants the brand name version.

3 = Substitution allowed- pharmacist selected product dispensed.

This means the pharmacist chose which brand of a drug to provide, even though a generic product option is available.

4 = Substitution allowed- generic drug not in stock.

This means a brand name was dispensed instead of a generic version, because the generics were all out of stock.

5 = Substitution allowed- Brand dispensed as pharmacy's generic.

This means that the pharmacy used a "Branded Generic."

This happens when the generic isn't stocked by the pharmacy and they use a brand name instead.

6 = Override DAW Code. This is the all-purpose override code and is used whenever an override is needed.

7 = Brand mandated by state law.

This code means that the brand name must be dispensed due to state law.

Other versions may not have passed state testing, for example. This requires that the brand version of the product is dispensed.

8 = Generic Product not available in the market place. The brand product is dispensed since the generic is not currently manufactured, distributed, or is temporarily unavailable. 

"This happens sometimes where there is a shortage or the generic is recently approved but the manufacturer is not up to speed yet." (*Webmaster note: Thank you to the anonymous registered pharmacist from Minneapolis, MN who emailed in to correct this.)

This could be due to a legal or license reason.

9 = Other. Another all-purpose code used whenever an existing code doesn't accurately describe the note required.

These dispense as written codes were developed to help create a standard method of noting why a pharmacist used or didn't use a certain brand name or generic drug.

With similar drugs being widely available from multiple wholesaler companies and sources, proper use of these codes helps maintain a level of transparency about why one version of a drug is being used over another.

These also help medical insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers organize claims and determine prescription coverage.

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Why doses Medicaid require "dispense as written" on the prescription for a generic medication? I sent a patient out with a prescription for a …

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I have conflicting information in regards to the DAW Code 0 and students are preparing for The PTCB. Please reiterate for me.

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What is a Prescription?


What does DNS mean?


What does "Brand Medically Necessary" mean?