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- How to Read Drug Labels (PDF, 886 KB)
How to read drug labels
- How to read a prescription drug label
- How to read an over-the-counter drug label
- More information on how to read drug labels
Using a prescription medicine can be confusing. It's hard to remember what your doctor told you. Choosing an over-the-counter drug like a pain reliever or antacid can also be hard. To use medicines safely, you need to know:
- The drug's name
- How to use it
- How much to use
- How often to use it
- When (morning, afternoon, or night) to use it
- When not to use it
- When to stop using it
The information you need is on the label. Not following the instructions on the label can hurt you. Use the pictures below to learn how to read prescription and over-the-counter drug labels. Many common prescription drugs also come with a Medication Guide, which is paper handout about using the prescription drug. If you still have trouble or have questions, call your doctor or the pharmacist for help. Learn more about using medicines with these tips from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Explore other publications and websites
Avoiding Drug Interactions — This publication provides information on drug interactions with certain food, beverages, dietary supplements, and other drugs. It also offers tips on how to prevent these complications.
Learn to Read Your Prescription (Copyright © Institute for Safe Medication Practices) — This resource illustrates each item that is included on a prescription. It explains what each item means and gives tips for understanding common abbreviations.
The New Over-the-Counter Medicine Label: Take a Look — This fact sheet is a guide for how to read the Drug Facts label for over-the-counter medicines. It explains what is on the label, what it means, and where you can find it.
Connect with other organizations
Healthcare 411, AHRQ, HHS
National Institute on Aging, NIH, HHS
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Content last updated May 18, 2010.
Resources last updated May 18, 2010.
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