It is a commonly understood fact that when a doctor believes a patient requires a particular regimen of drugs to treat their condition, they will use a particular type of form to indicate what this patient should be given. However, something else may be prescribed instead:
- It can be used to prescribe treatments beside drugs (for example, if a prescription is needed for a pair of crutches to be covered by insurance). This is unusual, but is Truth in Television.
- Medical tests, although not usually under this trope, can fall into this if patients bring a prescription for a medical test (with just a simple diagnosis code and no other information) to a community pharmacy. Again, Truth in Television.
- Something random (whether it can actually help the patient in some way or not) is prescribed; often Played for Laughs.
- What About Bob? Bob hunts down his psychiatrist Dr. Leo Marvin, who's on vacation in New Hampshire. Dr. Marvin makes Bob promise to go home, then writes Bob a prescription advising Bob to "Take a vacation... from your problems". This backfires, because it inspires Bob to take his vacation right there in New Hampshire, and he becomes The Thing That Would Not Leave in the Marvin household.
- In Chapter 1 of Three Men in a Boat, J. tells of going to his doctor after having convinced himself that he has every disease known to mankind (except housemaid's knee). His doctor gives him one of these:
"I read the prescription. It ran:1 lb. beefsteak, with 1 pt. bitter beer every 6 hours.
1 ten-mile walk every morning.
1 bed at 11 sharp every night.And don't stuff up your head with things you don't understand."
- In the book Ramona Forever, a doctor diagnoses Ramona with "siblingitis" (that is, jealousy over the attention her parents are giving her newborn sister) and hands her father a prescription for more attention.
- John Buchan's novel John Macnab opens with a doctor suggesting that an excessively bored politician "steal a horse in some part of the world where a horse-thief is usually hanged" as a cure. The conversation when he mentions this to some friends leads to the actual plot of the story.
- Dr. Cox wrote JD a prescription for testicles as an insult after JD shows off his "hairmet," a bicycle helmet with extra space for his styled hair.
- Dr. Cox (again) wrote Elliot a prescription for "no" when she asks him for relationship advice.
- Dr. Cox (still him) wrote a patient with bad sunburn a prescription for "an extra-large mallet to pound some sense into yourself" and "a big floppy hat that [he's] to wear every single time [he] leaves the house".
- Turk once wrote his wife Carla a prescription for himself, suggesting she "apply him to a sensitive area."
- House, M.D.:
- House offers to write a woman a prescription for a wet cloth after she'd brought her son into the clinic for "rashes" (it was red dye).
- Another episode has House filling a prescription bottle with candies in order to get an annoying patient without a real problem to leave. Later, the patient comes back and asks for a refill because it worked so well.
- In the episode "Damned If You Do", House gives a mall Santa a prescription for cigarettes as a treatment for inflammatory bowel disease. He claims it should alleviate his symptoms, but warns his insurance probably won't cover it.
- In the Monty Python's Flying Circus episode "The Cycling Tour" Mr Pither goes to a doctor to ask for directions to Iddesleigh. "Normally I would have asked a policeman or a minister of the Church, but finding no one available, I thought it better to consult a man with some professional qualifications, rather than rely on the possibly confused testimony of a passer-by." The doctor writes something down and tells Mr Pither to take it to a chemist. The next shot is a chemist looking at the paper and giving Mr Pither the directions.
- Star Trek: The Original Series:
- In "Wolf In The Fold", Doctor McCoy had Scotty visit a club with a bellydancer saying it was prescription.
- Played with in "Obsession": Nurse Chapel brings dinner Ensign Garrovick (who is mired in guilt over failing to shoot at vampire cloud fast enough). When he doesn't want to eat, she holds up a data card and tells him it's a prescription from Dr. McCoy with the single word: "EAT!" It turns out that she's bluffing.
- In the films, Bones drinks Romulan Ale for "medicinal purposes".
- Saturday Night Live: Christopher Walken has a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell.
- On Good Eats, in the episode "Gills Gone Wild," a doctor writes Alton a prescription for an expensive statin-type drug, as well as a prescription for salmon. When Alton questions what kind of salmon the doctor wants him to eat, the doctor replies that it doesn't matter. Alton is angered, because the doctor won't let him take a generic version of the medication but doesn't think there's a difference between farmed Atlantic salmon and the many types of wild Pacific salmon.
- In another episode, Alton is working behind the pharmacy counter, and hands bottles of blueberries to an old woman concerned about memory loss, a teenage boy who wants to keep himself looking young, and a middle-aged man suffering from impotence, while explaining blueberries' alleged health-and-beauty benefits.
- On Chuck, Devon makes the discovery that Jeff has slept in his van with the engine running for years. After bringing Jeff in for examination and determining he does indeed have carbon monoxide poisoning, Devon whips out his prescription pad. Jeff is eager to receive drugs, but the prescription just says Stop sleeping in your van!
- One mystery magazine story has a doctor kidnapped by a sick/wounded criminal. He writes out a prescription with a lot of Latin words, which a fellow criminal takes to the pharmacy. It's a basic painkiller plus "call the cops, I'm being held at this location."
- Dave Seville of Alvin and the Chipmunks fame had a 1958 song titled "Witch Doctor," in which the Doctor "prescribes" Ooh Eeh Ooh Ah Aah Ting Tang Walla Walla Bing Bang.
- In the Harry Nilsson song "Coconut" a woman puts lime in the coconut and drinks them both up, and gets a bellyache. She calls her doctor (wakes him up) and the doctor prescribes... lime in the coconut, drink them both together. Then she'll feel better.
- In Sting's song "If It's Love", he asks his doctor to diagnose why he's so happy:
And my doctor's diagnosis,
His opinion, and I quote,
"I'll write you a prescription."
And this is what my doctor wrote:
"If it's love, it has no season,
If it's love, there is no cure,
If it's love, it won't see reason,
And of this you can be sure."
- Super Smash Bros.: "Dr. Mario is in the house! His prescription? KOs!"
- In King of the Hill, during marriage counseling, the councilor prescribes Hank and Peggy a motorcycle, because they had been planning on buying a pair of motorcycles and riding around the country together.
- The Simpsons: In a Treehouse of Horror episode when Maggie starts growing tentacles, they take her to see Dr. Hibbert.
Homer: Is there anything you can prescribe, doctor?
Dr. Hibbert: Fire! And lots of it!
Marge: Oh, that's your cure for everything.
- Around 2000, a doctor in the Orkney Isles prescribed tubs of marinaded herring rather than drugs as a heart disease treatment.
- For patients with any number of disorders and diseases, including obesity, high blood pressure, pre-diabetic indicators, and arthritis, doctors may write a prescription for... exercise. Studies show that in cases where regular exercise is helpful in treating or mitigating illness, getting it in writing results in a significantly higher rate of patients adhering to an exercise regimen compared to just getting at as "doctor's advice," with a better long term results as an outcome.
- Service and emotional support animals are often "prescribed" because the prescription is needed to show others that the person has a medical need for the animal, often in housing cases when a place that's otherwise the best option for the patient has a pet ban.
- Some Canadian medical practices partnered up with the Montreal Museum of Fine Art to provide a "prescription" (amounting to a coupon for free admission) for a day out there for people suffering from depression, anxiety or severe work-related stress.