The number printed on a prescription pill is known as its imprint. The imprint may be combination of letters and numbers, and a logo may be included. The imprint may be used by a consumer, a doctor, a veterinarian or a pharmacist to identify the drug. Consumers may find it useful for identifying pills they have found in their home, left by a guest. Or older pills that have become mixed up in a pill box could need to be identified. Professionals including teachers may need to look up prescription medications if they find some in the classroom. Pharmacy technician students and pharmacology students also need to become familiar with the imprints on prescription drugs.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Pill with legible numbers
- Magnifying glass (optional)
Call the prescribing doctor and read off the pill number or go to the doctor's office if you have mixed up your medications and need help identifying them. The doctor's office will have a record of the prescriptions which have been written to you.
Search online for the pill number in a drug database including Drugs.com, Pharmer.org, or RxList.com. (See Resources). Type in the colour and the shape of the pill as well, if that information is requested by the website. Conduct a reverse search of the pill by name, if you know one of the names it could be. The number will come up and you can identify the pill that way.
Bring the mystery pills to the local pharmacy. The pharmacist will identify the pills for you by number. If you are unsure of the age of the pills and need a refill, the pharmacist can call the doctor's office for you.
E-mail the Federal Drug Association's Division of Drug Information office (See Resources). Include the pill number, the colour and shape when you contact them. The staff at this federal government office will e-mail you back with their findings.
Call the library and ask the reference librarian if they carry any pill reference books. The reference librarian will look up the pill number for you, if you cannot get to the library. Or go to the library and look up the number in the book. The local bookstore will also have a copy of the book and you can look up the number there.
Tips and warnings
- Return identified pills to a childproof container.
- Bring stray or unused pills back to the local pharmacy for proper disposal.
- If you cannot locate it yourself by number online, turn the pill the other way, you may be reading the imprint upside down.
- In the case of an emergency including accidental ingestion or overdose, call the National Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222. They will help you and they will call an ambulance and notify the nearest hospital, if you need to be transported for help.
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