5 Benefits of Pill Identifiers

The ability to quickly identify a tablet ingested by a patient can potentially mean life or death. Personnel at poison control centers and hospitals, medical professionals, and others previously had a difficult, if not impossible, time identifying drug products. The reason was that drug product identification-data submissions by companies involved in the manufacturing or distribution of drugs were not mandatory. As a result, a comprehensive list of products and their respective imprint information was not collected and therefore not available to members of the public and the medical community.

That all changed in 1995, following the implementation of the Federal regulations on imprints by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which required all approved prescription and over-the-counter solid, oral dosage form medications in the U.S. to have an imprint. This also applies to biological drug products and homeopathic drug products, unless otherwise exempted in the FDA Code of Federal Regulations 206.7. Solid oral dosage forms are defined as capsules, tablets, or similar drug products intended for oral use.

The imprint code, when used in conjunction with the product’s size, shape, and color, permits the identification of the drug product, the active ingredient(s), strength, and the manufacturer or distributor of the product.

The purpose of regulating imprinting is to enable identification of the pill ingredients and drug manufacturer by law enforcement officials, health care providers, and the patient or caregiver.

•          An imprint is defined as any single letter, number, or combination of letters and numbers, including words, company names, National Drug Code, or a mark, symbol, logo, or monogram. The drug manufacturer determines the imprint for specific drug products.

•          Identification of the drug product requires verification of its active ingredients and its dosage strength. Inclusion of a letter or number in the imprint, while not required, is encouraged as a more effective means of identification than a manufacturer’s symbol or logo by itself.

•          Homeopathic drug products are required only to bear an imprint that identifies the manufacturer and their homeopathic nature. There are no FDA-approved homeopathic products. Any product being sold in the U.S. that is marked as homeopathic is being marketed without FDA evaluation for safety or effectiveness.

There may be circumstances where two products have the same imprint code. For example, an imprint code might be reused after a drug product has been discontinued. Foreign products may also have the same code as an FDA-approved imprint.

What are pill identifiers?

A pill identifier refers to an App, software, platform, or tool that identifies pills capsules, or other medications using its imprints, chemical composition, a word, number, letter, symbol, color, shape, or any combination of those to identify it.

When you are having trouble identifying prescription, OTC, generic, and brand name pills and capsules, these apps, software, or platforms can quickly help you identify drugs and medications, and in most cases, they provide pill identifying pictures for you to review and help you make a proper match. Sometimes they also provide additional useful information such as dosage, drug interactions, uses, and warnings to enable you to make informed decisions about medications.

There are a number of different reasons why you might need help with pill identification. Maybe you misplaced a drug label or forgot what the pills in your weekly pillbox are. Perhaps you found some pills in your loved one’s pocket while doing the laundry, and you’re worried they might be misusing them. No matter the reason, knowing what a pill contains is important in ensuring the safe use of medicines.

Benefits of pill identifiers

1.        Pill identification tools (Pill Finders) can prevent patients from taking the wrong medication or the wrong dose of medication.

2.        Pill identifiers can prevent medication errors which can cause serious health consequences.

3.        Although doctors and pharmacists are diligent in making sure patients receive the correct medication, having a pill identifier handy can serve as a final check mechanism to ensure you always have the correct medication.

4.        Pill identifiers also help you know the medication and dose you should have received and help you better understand your condition.

5.        Pill identifiers also help to check drug abuse and addiction involving a partner, teenage child, or family member by providing all the information you need on those leftover pills you found hidden somewhere in the house or in the bathroom cabinet.


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
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