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Understanding Your Medicine Labels

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

Understanding your medicine and taking it correctly starts with listening to your doctor, your pharmacist and reading your medicine label. Whether it’s prescription medicines, over-the-counter products, sunscreens or supplements, reading the labels ensures you’re using the medicines properly and getting all the benefits.  

Reading the medicine label is an important aspect of taking care of yourself and your family. A medicine’s label and literature may tell you about its composition, class of medicine, uses, who should or shouldn’t take it and how to use it. Do check the date of manufacturing and expiry on the label. The Institute of Medicine Reported that a lack of patient understanding and subsequent unintentional misuse of medicines was the root cause of medication error, poor adherence and worse health outcomes. While some medicines need a prescription to be bought others are available Over-the-Counter and because Over-the-Counter medicines are taken without consultation from a doctor, it becomes even more necessary to read the label. Prescription drugs, on the other hand, are increasingly being taken by the elderly who may have a diminished ability to interpret the instructions on the medications. Whenever you purchase a medication make sure to read the label to ensure your safety.

Understanding Your medicines

In 1999, the Food and Drug Administration published the OTC Drug Facts Label regulation. According to this, the medicine label should use simple language and an easy-to-read format so that people could compare and select OTC medicines and follow dosage instructions.

Apart from the information in the blog, it is important to note for all diabetic patients on insulin to know that the insulin should be stored in a refrigerator , if not it loses the effect.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

The following information would appear in the order of:

  1. The product’s active ingredients  are inclusive of the amount in each dosage unit.
  2. The purpose is served by the product.
  3. The uses (indications) of the product.
  4. Specific warnings, which include the circumstances under which the product is not to be used and to consult a doctor or pharmacist when appropriate. It should also describe side effects that could occur and substances or activities to avoid.
  5. Dosage instructions and directions– All medicines would have the directions printed on the package or included as a leaflet. It’s good to read these even if you have taken the medicine before because chances are that something might have changed. It gives you a brief idea about when the product should be taken, how the product should be taken and how often. Ensure that you follow these instructions closely.
  6. Look for the expiration date  printed on your medicine. Using medicines that have passed their expiry date is not only ineffective but also may cause unwanted side effects.
  7. Other information  covers the storage conditions and temperature under which the product should be kept. It also reminds you to check for the seal of the pack to make sure the product hasn’t been tampered with.
  8. Information about the product’s inactive ingredients, helps consumers avoid ingredients that may cause an allergic reaction.
  9. Batch number and suppliers name– these would be required to identify if ever the medicines have some problems like packaging faults and have to be recalled.

It required the label to use plain-speaking terms along with a specification that required a type size large enough to be easily read and specific layout details such as bullets, the spacing between lines and marked sections that would improve readability.

Apart from the medicine label, following a prescription by your doctor is equally important, i.e., taking your prescriptions in the right dosage, at the right time, in the right way and in the correct frequency. This is important for controlling ongoing chronic conditions, successfully treating temporary illnesses, and maintaining your overall health and well-being.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj – M.B.B.S, M.D.

Additional tips to keep in mind:

  1. Always check that you have received the right medication.
  2. Verify that the bottle/packet contains the drug your doctor has prescribed you.
  3. Pay special attention to the instructions and take the medications only as directed by your doctor.  
  4. Always read the warning labels on your medications. The warning labels are usually on the side or back and are often separated from the main label. Check the package insert for warnings.
  5. Taking medication as directed by your physician can help you manage your health.
  6. Read the label every time you purchase a medication. It is important to be aware of the changes made by manufacturers in the products.
  7. You can always visit the product website if you’re looking for more information.
  8. Seek guidance from a health care professional before taking medication, in case you are pregnant or are breastfeeding.
  9. Keep medications out of the reach of children.

Disclaimer: The above information has been prepared by a qualified medical professional and may not represent the practices followed universally. The suggestions listed in this article constitute relatively common advice given to patients, and since every patient is different, you are advised to consult your physician, if in doubt, before acting upon this information. Lupin Limited has only facilitated the distribution of this information to you in the interest of patient education and welfare.


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