Consumers who don’t feel well often seek relief with over-the-counter medications and many products can help – if used correctly. Thanks to a new labeling system that took effect in 2002 consumers have a resource on every package that provides vital information about how to use the product safely.
The original law provided for a Drug Facts information box to be put on each package of over-the-counter medication sold in the United States. Full information must be given and no technical language is allowed to make information easy to read and understand for everyone. All Drug Facts labels use the same format so it’s simple to interpret the information.
The first item listed is the Active ingredient. This tells the customer just what is in the medication. The active ingredient is the chemical compound that works to ease symptoms. It is always listed first and also gives the amount per dosage. This is important to prevent accidental overdose.
Next, the purpose of the medication is listed. This tells the consumer what the chemical compound does. For example, many cold medications contain guaifensin which is an expectorant. That means it loosens mucous. Other examples would include pain reliver, antacid, and laxative.
Uses is the next category and on over-the-counter products, uses describes the symptoms or disease that the medication will treat or prevent.
Warnings is one of the most important listings under Drug Facts. This listing tells what products you should not use with this medication, any possible side effects, food, alcohol, or drug interactions, how the medicine may affect you if you have existing health conditions (such as high blood pressure or asthma), and activities to limit while using this medication. If the product makes users drowsy, this will be listed under warnings. Almost every OTC (over-the-counter) medication suggests that women who are pregnant or breast feeding consult their doctor before use. Drug Facts also always urge consumers to seek help or contact the Poison Control Center in the event of overdose.
Directions on how to use the medication in a safe dosage follows the warnings. The directions note how much of the medicine can be taken and how often. The maximum dose in a 24 hour period is also listed. It may also note whether or not the medication should be taken with food or on am empty stomach. Never go over a maximum dose and keep in mind the maxiumum should more than one medication containing the same ingredient (such as iburprofen, a common pain reliever) be taken at the same time.
Other information is the next to last listing in Drug Facts. This section may include storage information, description of tampe proof packaging, the expiration date and lot code, and other safe aspects.
The last listing is Inactive Ingredients, components of the medicine that may not treat symptoms but are included. These are things that give color, flavor, preservatives, or binders and are listed so that someone with allergies are advised that the ingredient is included.
Use Drug Facts to be a wise consumer and to use OTC medications in a safe, effective manner. If questions arise about the use of any over-the-counter drug, consult a physician for further information.