What are 3 things that must be on a prescription drug label?

To take your medication safely, you must be sure you understand the dosing instructions and any interactions. This sounds simple, but medication labels can be confusing. Let's look at some common types of labels and the kinds of information that appear on them.

Over-the-Counter Medications

You might be most concerned about your prescription drugs, but it is a good idea to carefully read labels for any over-the-counter (OTC) medications that you use and to consult your doctor about any vitamin or herbal supplements you take. You will want to read OTC medication labels to find out how much to take and when. You will also want to be sure the medication is safe to use with any other medications that you take and will not worsen any conditions you have. For example, if you are a cardiovascular disease patient, you might have high blood pressure. Some OTC medications, such as decongestants, can raise blood pressure. Reading package labels and inserts can help you know if the cold remedy or other medication is safe to use. And, as always, if you have any questions at all, you should talk immediately with your pharmacist or physician.

Prescription Medications

Prescription labels may vary from one pharmacy to another but they typically share the following elements:

  • Pharmacy's name, address and telephone number
  • Prescription number assigned only to that prescription
  • Date you are filling the prescription
  • Patient's name and address
  • Instructions for taking the medication
  • Number of refills
  • Expiration date 

You may also find that some words on your prescription label have been abbreviated. The chart on this page shows some common abbreviations and what they stand for. If you are not sure that you understand your medication label, do not be embarrassed: Ask your pharmacist. He or she is there to assist you.

FDA Black-Box Warnings

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Dr. Joseph D. Babb, of East Carolina University, explains why black box warnings may or may not have anything to do with you and your treatment.

At some point during your medical therapy, you may encounter a prescription label that contains a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) boxed warning, often called a "black-box warning." This warning is the FDA's highest warning level for a medication. It indicates that taking the medication may carry risks for some patients. If you have a prescription medication that carries a black-box warning, there is no reason to panic; it simply means that you should talk with the prescribing physician to get more information. It is NEVER a good idea to stop taking the medication before you have spoken with your physician. Doing so can be dangerous.

For example, in March of 2010, the FDA issued a statement that the antiplatelet drug clopidogrel (Plavix) would carry a black-box warning. Clopidogrel was discovered to be less effective in a small percentage of the population who carry a particular gene. For these patients, called poor metabolizers, the risk of heart attack was elevated because they were not receiving the full benefit of clopidogrel. Patients who do not metabolize the drug well can be switched to a higher dose or to a new antiplatelet drug. The majority of clopidogrel users do not need to change their current prescription.

How to Read Medicine Labels

What are 3 things that must be on a prescription drug label?

Drug Facts You Should Know


There’s a lot of important information that comes with the medicine you buy at a pharmacy. The Drug Facts panel on an over-the-counter med lets you know how to take it, what’s in it, and how it might make you feel. But the way that info is written can make it tricky to understand. Here's how to make sense of drug labels so you can avoid common, possibly dangerous mistakes.

What are 3 things that must be on a prescription drug label?

Active Ingredient and Purpose


Find this info at the top of the label on over-the-counter meds. It's the ingredient in the medicine that treats a symptom, along with the type of medication it is, like “antihistamine” or “pain reliever.” It also tells you how much of the drug is in each dose. Check this to make sure you don't take other drugs with the same ingredient and to understand what the product will do for you.

What are 3 things that must be on a prescription drug label?



This section gives you a snapshot of the symptoms or diseases that the drug can treat. For example, a pain-reliever label might say it eases toothaches, headaches, joint pain, and menstrual cramps. Always check this part when you buy a new medication to make sure it will do what you need it to do.

What are 3 things that must be on a prescription drug label?



This is one of the most important parts of the drug label, and it’s usually the largest. It gives you safety details about the medicine. You'll find four things here: who shouldn’t take the drug, when you should stop using it, when to call your doctor, and side effects you might have. It can help you check if it’s not safe to take with some health conditions or other medications.

What are 3 things that must be on a prescription drug label?



Check this part carefully. It tells you how much of the drug to take and how often to take it, called the dosage. For example, it may say to take two tablets every 4 to 6 hours. Never take more than the label says without talking to your doctor. The directions are grouped by age, so you know how much you or your child can use. You'll also get details about the maximum amount you should take in 1 day.

What are 3 things that must be on a prescription drug label?

Other Information


Heat and humidity can sometimes damage medications, so keeping them in your bathroom or in a car when the weather's warm may not be a good idea. This part of the label will tell you the right temperature range for storing the product. It also reminds you to make sure the package's safety seal hasn't been broken before you use it, which could be a sign of tampering.

What are 3 things that must be on a prescription drug label?

Inactive Ingredients


These are the ingredients in a drug that don’t directly treat your symptoms. They might be preservatives, dyes, or flavorings. Always check this section if you or your child has food or dye allergies. Keep in mind that different brands of the same kind of drug may have different inactive ingredients.

Show Sources


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2)  FDA / WebMD
3)  FDA / WebMD
4)   FDA / WebMD
5)   FDA / WebMD
6)  FDA / WebMD
7)  FDA / WebMD


Know Your Dose: "How to Read Your Label."
Womenshealth.gov: "How To Read Drug Labels."
FDA: "Glossary of Terms," "OTC Drug Facts Label."
National Council on Patient Education and Information web site: "Tips on Safe Storage and Disposal of Your Prescription Medicines."
Consumer Reports: "Can You Read this Drug Label?"
News release, Northwestern University. 2006.

What are 3 things that can be found on a medicine label?

Below is an example of what the OTC medicine label looks like..
Active Ingredient. Therapeutic substance in product; amount of active ingredient per unit..
Uses. Symptoms or diseases the product will treat or prevent..
Warnings. ... .
Inactive Ingredients. ... .
Purpose. ... .
Directions. ... .
Other Information..

What 6 things must be on a medication label?

The following information must be on every prescription label:.
Name and address of the dispensing pharmacy..
Serial number of the prescription..
Date of the prescription..
Name of the prescriber..
Name of the patient..
Name and strength of the drug..

What are the 3 categories of prescription drugs?

The most commonly used prescription drugs fall into three classes:.
Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants..

What are four pieces of information that should be on a prescription label?

Section 1: Indications and Usage. Section 2: Dosage and Administration. Section 3: Dosage Forms and Strengths. Section 4: Contraindications.