Why is it important for a patient to know how to read a prescription label?

Dr. Ordway discusses the importance of patients knowing how to read prescription labels. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.


Understanding how to read a prescription label is very important to your health.

Reading the label correctly can help patients make sure they are taking the right amount of the medicine and that it won’t negatively react with other medications, foods or drinks, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The label on your prescription medication, according to the HHS, provides you information including:

  • Description of the medication – many pharmacies have started adding a description of what the pills look to the label, just as an extra safety net that you have the correct medication
  • Dosage – tells how much of the medicine to take, how many times a day to take it, and how many days to take it
  • Drug interactions – some medications have bad reactions with other medicines, some foods and drinks, including alcohol; other medications require you take them with a meal
  • Expiration date – the medication is not effective after this date
  • How often and how long to take the drugs – for example, three times daily for 10 days
  • Reactions to the drug – some medications can make you tired, dizzy, nauseous or have other side effects
  • Your name – make sure you received medication meant for you

Other information, that might be included on a prescription label includes – your physician’s name, a prescription number for the pharmacy’s use, the number of refills available and the date the prescription was filled, according to the HHS.

For more information about why reading your prescript label correctly is important, talk with your physician.   

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