Understanding drug labels

Be mindful of the fact that, your health is your responsibility


Understanding drug labels

Be mindful of the fact that, your health is your responsibility

This article only takes 5 minutes of your time

Syafa, Retail Manager & Pharmacist at Ideal Kota Pendamar Pharmacy

Reading drug labels is almost like trying to read text in a foreign language but yet, it’s important to do so. “According to a study done on understanding drug labels, simple and explicit language on warning labels can actually increase patients’ understanding whereby the addition of appropriate icons is particularly useful for lower literate adults,” explains Nur Syafa Addina Dzakwan.

We speak to Syafa, Retail Manager and Pharmacist at Ideal Kota Pendamar Pharmacy as she shares the importance of drug labels to all consumers.


If you’re considering this next step in your journey to parenthood, here’s what you should know!

This article only takes 5 minutes of your time

Dr Adilah

Finding a life partner is already hard but for some couples, parenthood may not come as naturally as they thought. There is absolutely no shame in seeking help to start a little family of your own! However, some couples may be in more need of help than others.

For couples trying to start a family, stress is a factor that plays quite a large role. According to WebMD, a few studies found that women with high levels of alpha-amylase, a stress marker enzyme, took 29 percent longer to conceive compared to women with less of this enzyme. Of course, women who were stressed could be having less sex, more likely to smoke or drink alcohol and caffeine, which are also causes for lower chances of getting pregnant.

Don’t despair especially for those who get stressed once in a while. Nevertheless, if the stress is ongoing, such as in situations of unemployment or perhaps a death in the family, ovulation may become irregular. Additionally, some women could possibly have a physical problem that they don’t know of such as blocked fallopian tubes. The stress of not being able to conceive could then interfere with the process.

Making changes to your current lifestyle such as moderate physical activity (like walking once to five times a week), watching your weight, and eating a healthy Mediterranean-style diet full of whole grains, omega-3 fatty acids, fish and soy, could boost your chances.

We’d like to reiterate that there is no shame in seeking help with you and your partner’s fertility, thus, if you’re feeling a little helpless, perhaps IVF is the answer. In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a process where an ovum (egg) is removed from the ovaries and combined with sperm in a liquid in a laboratory.

To shine a light on IVF and perhaps answer some of the questions lingering in your mind, we spoke to Dr. Adilah Ahmat, Clinical Director of NewLife Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur (PHKL).

Drug labels and warnings are developed to point out critical warnings and information concerning a medication. Drug labels and warnings help the public understand the uses of a drug, when to report adverse drug reactions and what are the common side effects they should be expecting when consuming a type of drug.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Drug labeling, is a prescription drug product label, also known as a professional label, package insert, direction circular, and package circular. It is a compilation of information about a product written by the manufacturer and approved by the FDA.

It is very important to read drug labels each time you want to take or administer medicine

because labels change regularly. The drug labels are standardised labels that appear on all

over-the-counter (OTC) medicines which are approved by the FDA. It is designed to let you know the purpose of the medicine, the ingredients, who should consume it and how to take it safely.

In the case where adverse drug reactions (ADR) occur, drug labels could help the medical team determine the decision for your treatment. Oftentimes, patients ignore the ingredients of their medication and it could cost them their life.Quote: It is very important to read drug labels each time you want to take or administer medicine because labels change regularly.

The information that should be on drug labels and warning sections are: 

  • Active ingredients: Medicines may have more than one active ingredient. You would want to avoid taking or administering more than one medicine at a time that contains the same active ingredients. 
  • Uses or indications: This is pretty self-explanatory,  but again, it’s important  to use medicine that treats the symptoms you have. 
  • Directions to use: Carefully read and follow this section so you can ensure that you’re taking the exact dose and not re-dosing too soon. Directions on all medicines are not just suggestions or guidelines. They are meant to be followed. 
  • Warnings or contraindications: It is very important to know about the potential side effects the medicine could cause, what to do if the side effects occur; what other medicines should not be taken along with this medicine, when to ask a doctor before using and what conditions can make the medicine unsafe for you to take. This section may also include a reminder to keep the medicine out of the reach of children and other crucial safety information. 
  • Other information: Usually found at the bottom of the label. If you don’t store your medicine properly it may be ineffective when you need it. 
  • ExcipientS or inactive ingredients: These ingredients do not treat symptoms, but they can cause reactions in people who have allergies, so be sure to read the list. 
  • Questions or comments: Some medicines include a section with information on how to reach the manufacturing company if you have questions or comments about the medicine.

Some of the important critical components are:

  • Name and address of the clinic or hospital.
  • Serial number of the prescription.
  • Date of prescription.
  • Name of the prescriber and patient.
  • Name and strength of the drug.
  • The generic name of the drug (even if the generic drug is unavailable to dispense or even if the substitution of a generic drug is not authorised). 
  • Directions for use.
  • Appropriate cautionary statements. 
  • If the dispensed drug is a ‘tranquilizer or sedative,’ it should bear the warning “The consumption of alcoholic beverages while on this medication can be harmful to your health.” 
  • If the prescription is dispensed in a container apart from the manufacturer’s original packaging, a discard date should be labelled on top. 
  • If the prescription is dispensed in the manufacturer’s original container, the label must not obscure the expiration date and storage statement when the product is dispensed in the manufacturer’s original container.

Different medicines could have different warning labels; therefore it is important for you to always be aware of this section in the drug labels.

All medicinal products in Malaysia, including imported medicines must be registered under the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH) before they are sold to consumers. Registered products are guaranteed in terms of safety, quality and efficacy.

Registered medicines must have registration numbers (example, MAL20125467T) and Meditag Hologram labels on its label or packaging. A valid registration number begins with “MAL”, followed by eight digits and ends with an alphabet to indicate their registration category. The categories of registered products are as follows:

  • A – Controlled medicines
  • X – Over the counter medicines (OTC)
  • T – Natural Products/ Traditional Medicines
  • N – Health Supplements 
  • H – Veterinary Products

In addition, there may be administrative codes used by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) after the product category. The administrative codes are:

  • C – Contract Manufactured (the product is manufactured by a GMP certified contract manufacturer)
  • E – For Export Only (FEO) (the product is to be sold for export only and not for sale in the local market)
  • R – Packed and/or repacked (the product is packed and/or repacked by an approved GMP certified packer and/or repacker)
  • S – Second source (the product is from a second source/ approved second manufacturer)
  • Y – Orphan products
  • Z – Products gazetted as zero- rated under the Goods and Services Tax Act 2014, Goods and Services Tax (Zero-Rated Supplies) Order 2014.

For more information, visit National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) website at https://www.npra.gov.my/index.php/en/

Reading and understanding drug labels are important knowledge that the public should acquire especially in regards to the medications they are consuming.

If you can’t grasp the information on your drug labels, do not hesitate to get help from the nearest community pharmacists or general practitioners, we are more than willing to help you.

Quote: Different medicines could have different warning labels; therefore it is important for you to always be aware of this section in the drug labels.



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