What Do the Markings on My Oral Medication Mean?

September 1, 2023 at 4:44 p.m.
Decoding the marks on your oral medications
Decoding the marks on your oral medications

Every federally approved prescription drug should have a code on the medication, but what does the code mean? Explore the pharmaceutical imprint codes.

Have you ever noticed that on your pills or tablets, there are small, imprinted numbers, letters, and symbols? What do the markings on the oral medication mean? We explain everything you need to know about medication imprints below.

What the Symbols, Letters, and Numbers on Your Medication Mean

The letters, symbols, and numbers you see on your oral medication are the drug’s imprint code. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires the pharmaceutical imprint code for most over-the-counter and prescription drug tablets and capsules.

The imprint and the drug’s size and color are for pill identification. With these three pieces of information, anyone can identify a pill through the available online database that provides people with essential drug information. These details inform people of the pill’s name, dosage strength, and more without needing any packaging or labeling.

How They Imprint Symbols on Your Medication

These oral medications are so small; how do they print such precise, legible text on their surfaces? Pharmaceutical imprints are made with highly precise lasers that leave permanent marks on the most delicate surfaces while keeping the oral medication intact.

Laser coding pills helps deter counterfeit drugs and illegal narcotics as it’s not something the average counterfeiter can get their hands on. If you ever find that your oral medication doesn’t have an imprint code on it, that could be a problem.

What To Do if Your Medication Doesn’t Have an Imprint

If you ever look at your oral medication to find it only has a blank surface, you should be cautious about taking it. While the imprint may have faded over time, that issue is rare and would mean the medication is exceptionally old and may be expired.

If the pill or tablet is a vitamin or supplement, the lack of label is likely fine, as the FDA doesn’t require imprint codes on those pills. But if the drug is a prescribed medicine and doesn’t have an imprint, it could be medication from a foreign country that doesn’t have imprint requirements for pill identification. The worst-case scenario is that the drug is a counterfeit or illegal narcotic, and you should report the pharmacy where you got the medication to the FDA.

In conclusion: Now you know what the markings on your oral medication mean and why they’re so important. Remember, if you ever need to identify a pill or want to learn more about it, you can look up its basic information via its imprint code online through sites such as WebMD. If you ever drop or mix up your medication, this code can be an excellent tool for ensuring you’re taking the right medication!

This article is courtesy of contributor Shea Rumoro 
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