If you can no longer read the label on that bottle in the back of your medicine cabinet, or if you've found a loose pill that you don't recognise, you can use the pill imprint to identify the name and strength of the medication. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that all prescription medication be labelled with an alphanumeric code imprinted onto the surface of the pill. Other aspects of the pill's appearance, including shape, colour and logo, can also aid in identification.
Select a website with a pill identification database. Some sites charge a fee, but there are several that are free. RxList.com and Drugs.com both offer a free searchable database (see Resources).
Enter the letters and numbers found on the surface of the pill in the box marked "Imprint." The exact number of characters in the imprint code varies based on manufacturer.
Select the colour of the pill from the drop-down menu. Colour is another way that pharmaceutical manufacturers differentiate one medication from another. If a pill has speckles or markings of a colour different from the base colour, list both colours as the pill colour.
Choose the shape of the pill from the menu. This is another characteristic used to distinguish different types of pills. Combined with the colour and imprint code, it creates a unique identity for all prescription medications.
Click "Search" to search the site's pill identification database. The results page will show you the name and strength of the pill as well as the manufacturer's name. It may also include a photograph of each side of the pill for visual verification.
Don't take any pills that you haven't identified. If a pill doesn't appear in the database, take it to your local pharmacy and ask if the pharmacist can identify it. Over-the-counter medications are not required to have a unique imprint, and some prescription medications are also exempt from this requirement.