Reading Labels

When you buy prescription or over-the-counter medicines and other pharmacy products such as supplements, information is provided on the label to help you better understand and use the product correctly.

The label tells you what you are buying, what it can do for you and how to use it to get the best results. In addition it provides important information about how it should be stored as well as providing an expiry date.

Non-prescription medicines will also detail the product’s use. Prescription medicines do not have this on the labels as the decision for using them, and how they are to be used, rests with the doctor.

Labels will list the active ingredient(s) and this can be helpful in preventing accidental double dosing with another medicine that contains the same active ingredient(s). This information is important also as some medical conditions, allergies and other medicines may have an impact on which medicine is most suitable for a given situation.

The strength of your medicine is also listed and it is important to check this as medicines may be available in different strengths. When giving medicine to a child it is very important that the right dose is chosen for a child and that adult strengths are not used.

Medicines come in different forms and for babies and young children the main formulations are drops, suspensions and elixirs. Some medicines are available in other forms children-friendly forms such as soluble or chewable tablets and suppositories. When buying a medicine for a child check the formulation to make sure it is suitable and that you are able to administer it correctly.

The label also gives instructions for use which must be followed. Dose instructions should not be exceeded.

Another piece of important information on the label is the batch number, and name and address of the supplier, and these can be used to track the medicine if there is a problem.

Labelling is part of the national system of regulating medicines and most of these products must be included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).

Medicines included in the ARTG carry the notation AUST R or AUST L.

AUST R medicines are assessed for safety, quality and effectiveness. They include all prescription-only medicines and many over-the-counter products such as medicines for pain relief, coughs and colds and antiseptic creams.

AUST L medicines can only contain pre-approved low-risk ingredients and these medicines are designated for use in minor health problems and are reviewed for safety and quality.

Always discuss your medicines with your pharmacist who is a medicines expert.


The content displayed on this webpage is intended for informational purposes and is a guide only. It does not replace or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Information contained on this webpage must be discussed with an appropriate healthcare professional before making any decisions or taking any action based on the content of this webpage.