Prescription drug bottles
Warning labels

What we found: Bottle warning labels

Last reviewed: June 2011

One benefit of Target's redesigned bottle is that it allows more space for more warnings and instructions on the back. In the case of the warfarin prescription we filled, the bottle label clearly included four horizontal warnings and one directive to "read the medication guide that comes with this medicine." Walgreens also had four warnings printed on the bottle label; CVS had three printed on the label, Costco had two warning stickers positioned sideways on the bottle, and Walmart had none. (Filling another 5 mg warfarin prescription at the same Walmart a second time did yield a bottle with three warning stickers on it, as did a third trip to another Walmart in the area, though they weren't the same three warning stickers on each bottle.)

How can there be different or missing warning labels? Drugstores use information from various software vendors, and the software sets the risk level of a medication based on scientific studies, says Carmen Catizone, executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, which works with each state's regulatory board.

And, while each state's board of pharmacy has the ability to set guidelines for prescription bottle warnings, none of them has. "It's up to the company and pharmacist to then decide what risk levels merit what labels," says Catizone. "Some companies don't allow discretion in affixing warning labels generated by the software system, while others make the warning labels available and it's the pharmacist who decides which label to affix to the container."

Here's a breakdown of the warning labels on each of the bottles we received:

Warnings on the bottle (printed on label or stickers)

To close an enlarged image, click again on it.

Enlarge image  Enlarge Image Costco pill bottle

Costco

Warning 1: "If you drink alcohol, discuss the safe use of alcohol while taking this this medication with your healthcare professional"

NOTE: This warning appears inconsistent with the approved FDA prescriber information that states: "Avoid alcohol consumption."

Warning 2: "Do not take aspirin products without doctor approval. Continue taking low-dose aspirin to prevent heart attack/stroke unless doctor tells you to stop"




Enlarge image  Enlarge Image CVS pill bottle

CVS

Warning 1: "No aspirin without MD approval. Continue low dose aspirin unless MD stops"
Warning 2: "Do not take this drug if you become pregnant"
Warning 3: "Immediately report bleeding or bruising to your doctor"




Enlarge image  Enlarge Image Target pill bottle

Target

Warning 1: "Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant"
Warning 2: "Do not take medicine containing aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen without consent of your Dr."
Warning 3: "Do not drink alcoholic beverages while taking this medicine"
Warning 4: "Do not take other medicines without checking with your doctor or pharmacist"


Enlarge image  Enlarge Image Walgreens pill bottle

Walgreens

Warning 1: "Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant"
Warning 2: "Do not take medicine containing aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen without consent of your Dr."
Warning 3: "Do not drink alcoholic beverages while taking this medicine"
Warning 4: "Do not take other medicines without checking with your doctor or pharmacist"


Enlarge image  Enlarge Image Walmart pill bottle

Walmart

No warning labels on first attempt
Second-attempt warnings
Warning 1: "Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant"
Warning 2: "Do not take medicine containing aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen without consent of your Dr."
Warning 3: "Do not drink alcoholic beverages while taking this medicine"
Third-attempt warnings
Warning 1: "Do not take medicine containing aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen without the consent of your Dr."
Warning 2: "Do not drink alcoholic beverages while taking this medicine"
Warning 3: "Do not take other medicines without checking with your doctor or pharmacist"



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.