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Why Should I Read Medicine Labels?

Consumers have become very savvy about reading food labels, especially when it comes to calories, carbohydrates or fat grams. Surprisingly, however, most consumers are not taking the time to read the labels or package inserts for their prescription or over-the-counter medicines. Why is this important? Medicine labels include important information that is mandated-and reviewed-by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to benefit your health.

Medicine product labels include information about active ingredients as well as inactive ingredients. This helps you identify anything you might be allergic to, or whether the medicine contains ingredients that are also in other medicines you are taking at the same time for different purposes. The "Uses" section tells you what the drug is for and can help you find the best product for your symptoms. The "Warnings" section is particularly important: here's where you can find out who should NOT take this product, when to stop taking the drug, medical conditions that may make the drug less effective or unsafe, and when to talk to a doctor or pharmacist before use.

The "Directions" section of the label tells you precisely how to take the medicine and how much, as well as how long you may safely take that medication. This section may also tell you how the medicine should be stored or other specific instructions such as whether or not to take the medicine with food or on an empty stomach. Sometimes medicines have specific instructions that may not be obvious, such as avoiding sun exposure. Most importantly, the "Questions?" section of the label provides a telephone number to call if you have any product related questions. It is usually best to ask your physician or pharmacist any specific questions you may have about any medicines you may be taking.

Created: 3/4/2004  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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