Prescription drug bottles
Prescription bottle labels

A closer look at prescription bottle labels

Last reviewed: June 2011

See below for a detailed analysis of the bottles we received and how they stacked up. Click directly on the image to enlarge, click on it again to close.

Costco

Enlarge image Enlarge Image
Costco pill bottles
Readability
Black words on a white label? Mostly. The Costco logo is red and blue, and the drug name and refill number are highlighted yellow. There are also some very small words, such as "discard after," "Dr.," and a warning against taking someone else's prescription in red type.
Typeface and style are easy to read? No. Although the drug name looks to be in 12-point type (but point size varies between fonts), the dosage instructions are in a lighter, approximately 8-point type, and the colorful warning labels on the side of the bottle have even smaller type.
All text horizontal, including warnings? No. The warnings are on separate, colorful stickers that read vertically, while the text on the patient drug label itself reads horizontally.
Drug information separate from pharmacy information? Yes.
Patient name plus address or date of birth appears as an identifier? Yes.
Only patient information is highlighted? Yes.
Drug name is clear? Yes.
Drug's generic and brand names are listed? No. However, both names were listed in the accompanying paper instructions.
Dosage
Avoids unnecessary zeroes? Yes.
Instructions are written out explicitly? Yes.
Instructions use numerals? Yes. Instructions say "1 tablet," not "one tablet."
Safety
Label has written description and/or image of the medication? Yes, but the print is quite small and almost unreadable.
Warnings are present and well placed? No. There are no warnings on the patient drug label itself. Instead, there are two colorful warning stickers placed horizontally on the bottle, separate from the dosage instructions, where patients might not look for information. There were also warnings listed in the paper instructions that accompanied the medication.

CVS

Enlarge image Enlarge Image
CVS pill bottles
Readability
Black words on a white label? Mostly. CVS logo is red text, and the drug name and dosage, warnings, pharmacy phone number and refill number are highlighted blue.
Typeface and style are easy to read? Yes. The words are large, clear, and easy to read.
All text horizontal, including warnings? Yes.
Drug information separate from pharmacy information? Yes.
Patient name plus address or date of birth appears as an identifier? Yes.
Only patient information is highlighted? Yes.
Drug name is clear? Yes.
Drug's generic and brand names are listed? Yes. Although this was filled for generic warfarin, the label says "Common Brand(s): Coumadin."
Dosage
Avoids unnecessary zeroes? Yes.
Instructions are written out explicitly? Yes.
Instructions use numerals? Yes. Instructions say "1 tablet," not "one tablet."
Safety
Label has written description and/or image of the medication? Yes.
Warnings are present and well placed? Yes. They are typed on the actual label (not added as colorful stickers) in clear, simple language.

Target

Enlarge image Enlarge Image
Target pill bottles
Readability
Black words on a white label? Mostly. The Target name is in red type, and the drug name and refill number are highlighted blue. Also, the word "cautions" above the list of warnings on the back side of the label is highlighted red.
Typeface and style are easy to read? The words are large, clear, and easy to read, especially the drug name and dosage across the top of the bottle.
All text horizontal, including warnings? Yes.
Drug information separate from pharmacy information? Yes.
Patient name plus address or date of birth appears as an identifier? Yes.
Only patient information is highlighted? Yes.
Drug name is clear? Yes.
Drug's generic and brand names are listed? Yes. Although this was filled for generic warfarin, the label says "Generic for: Coumadin."
Dosage
Avoids unnecessary zeroes? Yes.
Instructions are written out explicitly? Yes.
Instructions use numerals? No. The label says "one tablet," instead of "1 tablet."
Safety
Label has written description and/or image of the medication? No. But this information did appear in the paper instructions that accompanied the medication.
Warnings are present and well placed? Yes. Most of the rear side of Target's triangular-shaped bottle has warning information.

Walgreens

Enlarge image Enlarge Image
Walgreens pill bottles
Readability
Black words on a white label? Mostly. The Walgreens name is in red type, and the refill number is highlighted yellow. There's also a red box outlining most of the patient information.
Typeface and style are easy to read? Somewhat.The words are fairly large, clear, and easy enough to read, though they could be bigger.
All text horizontal, including warnings? Yes.
Drug information separate from pharmacy information? Yes.
Patient name plus address or date of birth appears as an identifier? Yes.
Only patient information is highlighted? Yes.
Drug name is clear? No. The name "warfarin sodium" is abbreviated as "warfarin sod," which may be confusing to patients. (But "warfarin," the most important part of the name, is spelled out.)
Drug's generic and brand names are listed? No. (The brand name was also not mentioned in the paper instructions that accompanied the drug.)
Dosage
Avoids unnecessary zeroes? Yes.
Instructions are written out explicitly? Yes.
Instructions use numerals? Yes. It says "1 tablet," not "one tablet."
Safety
Label has written description and/or image of the medication? Yes.
Warnings are present and well placed? Yes.

Walmart

Enlarge image Enlarge Image
Walmart pill bottles
Readability
Black words on a white label? Mostly. The Walmart name is in blue type, and the refill number, patient name and patient address are highlighted yellow.
Typeface and style are easy to read? Somewhat. The words are fairly large, clear, and easy enough to read, though they could be bigger.
All text horizontal, including warnings? Text is horizontal but in the case of the warning stickers, it varies. The first bottle has no warnings; second bottle--three warning stickers are horizontally placed; third bottle--two warning stickers placed sideways and one positioned horizontally.
Drug information separate from pharmacy information? Yes.
Patient name plus address or date of birth appears as an identifier? On the first and second bottles, the patient's name is present, but no birthdate or address identifiers (same Walmart pharmacy store). On the third bottle, the patient's name and address are present (different Walmart pharmacy store).
Only patient information is highlighted? Yes.
Drug name is clear? Yes.
Drug's generic and brand names are listed? No. (The brand name was also not mentioned in the paper instructions that accompanied the drug.)
Dosage
Avoids unnecessary zeroes? Yes.
Instructions are written out explicitly? Yes.
Instructions use numerals? No. The label says "one tablet," instead of "1 tablet."
Safety
Label has written description and/or image of the medication? Not on the first or second filling. The third prescription we filled with Walmart had a sticker attached to the bottle with a description of the medication. (The information was not mentioned in the paper instructions that accompanied the drug.)
Warnings are present and well placed? No. This was the only prescription in our survey where a bottle had no warnings at all for warfarin, a drug that can place you at risk of bleeding. But there were warnings mentioned in the accompanying paper instructions. When we filled the prescription a second and third time, warning stickers were attached to the prescription container.
NOTE: The third prescription we filled at Walmart dedicated valuable label real estate to the Walmart pharmacy lunch hours, reading "closed from 1:30 to 2 pm for lunch."

These materials are made possible by a grant from the state Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program, which is funded by the multi-state settlement of consumer-fraud claims regarding the marketing of the prescription drug Neurontin (gabapentin).

If you think you have experienced an adverse event with this drug or any drug, especially if it is of a serious nature, it is important to 1) tell your doctor immediately and 2) report the event to the Food and Drug Administration via the FDA's MedWatch Web site at www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/medwatch/medwatch-online.htm or by calling 1-800-FDA-1088.

 
 
FREE Email newsletters
Sign up now or click here to manage your email newsletters.