How To Read the Label on Your Pill Bottle

Published: January 06, 2022
Gabrielle Pierce
By Gabrielle Pierce, PharmD, MBA

When you go to the pharmacy to pick up your medication, you may have noticed that the pharmacist has put certain labels and stickers on the outside of the bottle or box containing your medicine. You may not realize that every piece of information printed onto your pill bottle is very important, and carefully reading it can help you better understand the medications that you are taking. You can always ask your pharmacist to explain anything that is confusing or does not make sense to you.


Medication name and dose

Every time you pick up a medication from the pharmacy, the label will have the name and dose of the medicine inside the container. It is important that you read over the names of your medications and ask your pharmacist if you do not recognize the name.


If you do not recognize the name of your medication, you may have received the generic form of the medication. Every medication has two names, a brand name and a generic name. Even though it may have different names, the medication itself is the same and will work the same way in your body. You can always ask the pharmacist to verify that you received the correct medication.


The dose of your medication will be listed right after the name of the medication. The dose is how much of the medication is in each unit of the drug, whether it is a single pill, an injection, or another form. 



Another key piece of information found on every pill bottle is the instructions for how the medication should be taken. This includes how much (such as the number of tablets) and how often the medication should be taken, such as once a day or twice a day, in the morning, after meals, or at bedtime.


The instructions will also tell you about how the medication should be taken or used, such as by mouth, injection, or on the skin. If you do not understand the instructions, your pharmacist can explain how your medication should be taken or used.


The pill bottle should also have an expiration date clearly listed on it. This is the date that the medication in the container will expire. Medication should not be taken or used after its expiration date and should be safely disposed of at the time of expiration.


Doctor Information

The label will have the name of the doctor who prescribed the medication listed on the bottle. Sometimes this will be the nurse or physician assistant’s name, depending on which individual at your doctor’s office sent the prescription to the pharmacy.


Sometimes, the label will also include the phone number or address of the doctor who wrote this prescription. The doctor whose name is on the label should be the person you contact if you need a new prescription when you are out of refills.


Pharmacy Information

The label on your medication bottle will probably also include the name and phone number of the pharmacy that filled the prescription. This information can be helpful if you need to contact your pharmacy to ask for a refill of your medication or to ask any questions about your medicines.


Remember that if you use more than one pharmacy, you should always check all of your medications to ensure you do not have duplicate prescriptions of a certain medication.


Number of Refills

Your bottle may also include the word “Refills” with a number beside it. This is the number of times your pharmacy will be able to fill your prescription before a new one needs to be written. If this number is zero, ask your pharmacist if they can contact your doctor, or you can ask your doctor directly for a refill.


Other Labels (Auxiliary Labels)

Sometimes there will be extra labels or stickers on your bottle. These are specific to your medication and may say things like “Keep in the fridge” or “Take with food.” Read all of these labels and follow these instructions closely.



Keep your medication in the original container (pill bottle or box) that the pharmacy provided you with. Keeping the original container with the instructions and information can help ensure that your medication is used safely and correctly.


It is important to keep an updated list of the medications you are currently taking. This list should be brought to your doctor’s appointments and trips to the pharmacy in case your doctor or pharmacist has any questions about your current medication regimen.


If you are ever unsure about your medications, your pharmacist can help answer any questions or concerns you may have.

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