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Easily Identify Pills

Don’t Know What Pill You Just Picked Up?  Easily Identify Pills in Several Ways.

Ever dropped a pill, found it, and then wondered which one it was?  Or, do you separate pills from their original bottle to organize them in a pill dispenser and then get confused about which pill is which? Don’t guess.  It’s too risky.  Learn about simple ways to quickly identify that pill!


(Click to See Answers)

What information about the pill is most helpful to identifying it from other pills?

One of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) responsibilities is to review, approve and regulate pharmaceutical drugs.  The way the FDA tracks identification of pills is by its physical appearance and markings.  Here’s what you will need to know to identify a pill, according to the FDA:

  • Size
  • Color
  • Shape
  • Numbers imprinted on the pill
  • Scoring (the line(s) that appears on the pill where it can be split)
What if I cannot read the numbers on the pill?

Numbers or writing on the pill is the first and easiest way to identify a pill.  Some may be small and hard to read.  Try using reading glasses or a magnifier, says experts.  If the numbers are not readible, the FDA recommends taking the pill to your local pharmacy for your pharmacist to identify the pill.

What if I don't have access to the Internet to look up the pill?

The easiest way to identify a pill if you don’t have connection to the Internet, or are having problems identifying the pill online, is to go back to your original pill bottles and compare the pill to the ones in the bottles to see if there is a match. (NIH)


% of doctor office visits that a drug is prescribed (CDC)


Tools & Resources at Your Fingertips

Take Action

Using an online Pill Identifier is a very common way to look up and confirm the identity of prescribed and over-the-counter medications.  Below are two of the top tools used today.  The FDA warns if you’ve taken a pill that you’re not sure what it is that you should call poison control at 1-800-222-1222.  And, if you should start to experience unusual symptoms after taking a pill to call 911.

The National Library of Medicine's (NLM) Pillbox

The NLM’s Pillbox asks for more information to identify pills, which may be helpful.  Pictures of matches are useful in confirming the identity of the pill.  Information about the medication is also provided.

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