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How to read drug labels

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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.

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How to read a prescription drug label

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How to read an over-the-counter drug label

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Content last updated: May 18, 2010.

Resources last updated: May 18, 2010.

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