How To Read a Prescription Bottle Label

Written by Ally Streelman

NowRx Pharmacy

How To Read a Prescription Bottle Label

If you’ve ever taken a look at the label on your prescription bottle, you’ve likely had to take more than a few seconds to understand it. Between the lengthy and sometimes obscure names of medications to the dosage information, drug labels can be confusing. However, it’s critical to learn how to read a prescription bottle label to take medication properly. 

Doctors prescribe medication for a particular purpose and prescribe doses based on your unique body, condition, and current medication regimen. 

If you fail to follow the instructions on your prescription bottle, you may experience any of the following consequences: 

  • Extend the length of your sickness
  • Not experience relief
  • Need to revisit your doctor
  • Fail to refill your prescription on time
  • Overdose 

All of these scenarios can be avoided when you take your medication as prescribed. But if you don’t understand your prescription labels, this is hard to do. 

Let’s dive into what you need to know!

Prescription Bottle Label 101

All prescription medications, by law, will come with a label that features important information you, the patient, need to know. Sometimes this label is directly on the bottle and other times, for creams or drops, it is on the box that the medication is inside. The label includes: 

  • The patient’s name (always double-check that you have your medication)
  • The pharmacy name, address, and phone number
  • The prescribing doctor’s name
  • The Rx number
  • The name and strength of the medication. Make sure the strength of each pill or tablet matches the strength of the prescribed dosage. In some cases, you may need to take half a tablet or two tablets to meet the correct dose.
  • A physical description of the drug
  • The quantity of the medication
  • The date the prescription was filled
  • Number of refills and date by which refills are eligible 
  • Directions, i.e., “Take one tablet by mouth twice daily with food.”
  • The expiration date—after this date, the medication may no longer be as effective.

The label may also list any precautions to be aware of when taking the medication. However, this information may also be available on the sheet attached to your prescription package. It’s important to review any attached information as well, not just the prescription label, as it may contain additional information about side effects and drug interactions. 

Once you understand how to read the label on your prescription bottle, it’s important to adhere to the instructions. For instance, if you’re prescribed medication for high blood pressure, such as amlodipine, it’s important to take your medication every day. Then, follow these tips to manage your medication effectively. 

What is an Rx number? 

An Rx number or prescription number is a number that the pharmacy uses to reference your specific prescription. This number can help your pharmacist quickly find your prescription information to fulfill refills or answer questions. 

Where is the Rx number on a prescription?

The Rx number will often be on the upper left-hand corner of the prescription label. It should be listed as Rx#: XXXXXX-XXX. If you have lost your prescription bottle or box with the prescription number, your pharmacist can still look up your prescription using your name. 

What does PRN mean on a prescription?

PRN stands for “pro re nata,” a Latin phrase that means “as the thing is needed.”

While your doctor may prescribe medication for daily use to lower blood pressure, for instance, or for use for a specified period of time to fight an infection, they may also prescribe medication for one-off cases. For instance, they may prescribe a heartburn medication or a cough medication for you to use when you have heartburn or a cough. These types of medications are for use “as needed” or  “pro re nata.” 

If your prescription says PRN, you should only take it in certain instances to treat the specific symptom. It’s important to know what those certain instances are and how much of a dose to take when they occur.

If you have a PRN prescription medication and you’re not sure when or how to take it, talk to your pharmacist. They can answer any questions you have and ensure you take the medication properly. 

Questions? Talk to your pharmacist

The label on your prescription medication bottle is sometimes the only direction you’re given as to when and how to take your medication. If you don’t know how to read the label, you could misuse the drug and not experience the full benefits, or worse, have serious side effects.

This is why it’s important to ask questions before taking medication. If you don’t understand something on your prescription bottle label or have questions about the medication at hand, talk to your pharmacist. 

At NowRx, there is always someone available to take your call. Simply call your local NowRx or reach out via the NowRx app. 

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