New Standards for Prescription Labels

Campaign seeks to improve clearness of drug labels

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Patient confusion over prescription labels has lead to a new campaign to provide necessary and more user-friendly information on medical drug containers.

The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, a nonprofit scientific organization, and the Institute of Medicine, have come together to create new standards of quality for prescription medication labels.

The labels may vary widely and are part of an attempt to boost health literacy as more people become part of the healthcare system. These guidelines will be imposed for a ninety-day period and the organizations will look at feedback from healthcare professionals and consumers alike.

Difficulty understanding drug labels is very common due to the lack of a standard system of operation and guidelines for quality. The writing on prescriptions is very important because most people rely on them solely to understand how the product is used.

Prescription drug interactions are the fourth leading cause of deaths annually in the United States, and in 2006, there were 38,396 deaths due to drug use, a number that includes both recreational drugs and adverse reactions to medical prescriptions. The CDC reports that 48% of Americans were using at least one prescription drug between 2005 and 2008.

A few of the new standards for pharmacies and prescription labels are:

  • Clearly displayed instructions and safety information. Also, patient's name, the product name and dosage are essential for proper use.
  • Numbers should be precisely separated and instructions clearly given that emphasize amount and time of day.
  • What the medication is used for should be written as well, unless otherwise specified by the patient.
  • Large, clear fonts should be used to make text easily readable.
  • Additional or extra stickers that do not pertain directly to the medication and its uses should be minimized to avoid patient confusion.
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 3, 2011
Last Updated:
January 4, 2011