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Health Information | 03/08/2023

Making Sense of a Prescription Medicine Label

By  Sandra Elman, PharmD
I admit it: there’s a lot of information packed onto a prescription medicine label. It’s all appropriate and necessary information, but interpreting the abbreviations and small print can be difficult. To add to the confusion, one pharmacy’s label may place information in a different location than another pharmacy’s label does. This creates a frustrating game of “hide and seek.” Understanding your medicine label gives you the power to take what’s inside correctly and protect your health. So here’s a quick 1~2~3~4 outline of the key information you should know how to find on that label:
  1. The name, address, and phone number of your pharmacy. Call the phone number when you have about a 5-day supply left of your medicine, and you have refills remaining (see #4). If you need to get a prescription renewed (meaning that you have no remaining refills), your clinician’s office may need the name, address, and phone number of the pharmacy to renew your prescription promptly.
  2. Prescription number. Often listed as a number after the letters “Rx,” each of your medicines has its own unique number. Know your prescription number when you call the pharmacy to refill your medication.
  3. Name of medicine and instructions for taking. Make sure you know what you are taking, as well as the dose and strength. The number and unit of measure listed is the amount of medicine in one pill, so your dose would be higher than that if you have been instructed to take 2 or more pills at one time.
  4. The number of refills remaining. This is the number of times you can refill your medicine at the pharmacy before you need a new prescription from your healthcare provider.
If you have any questions about your prescription or information on your prescription label, please talk with your clinician or pharmacist.

About The Author

Sandra Elman, PharmD

Sandra Elman, PharmD, is a clinical pharmacist. She joined Atrius Health in 2015 after completing her residency in pharmacy practice at MCPHS University and Atrius Health. Prior to residency, she graduated with a Doctorate of Pharmacy from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.

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