How to Protect Yourself Against Over-the-Counter Drug Tampering

Be alert to features on the package showing that it has been tampered with before you open it

OTC acetaminophen tablets / Over-the-Counter Drug Tampering
Image: NCCC
January 12, 2018

U.S. nonprescription, over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are among the most safely packaged consumer products in the world.

Most of these OTC products, by law, are sealed in tamper-evident packaging for your protection. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a 100-percent tamper-proof package.

So what can you do?

The following tips from the Council on Family Health (CFH) and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPH), in cooperation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), will help you protect yourself and your family against over-the-counter medicine tampering:

  1. Read the label.
  2. Be alert to the tamper-evident features on the package before you open it. These features are described on the label.

  3. Inspect the outer packaging for signs of tampering before you buy a product.
  4. If it looks like it's been tampered with, don't buy it! Take it to a store manager instead.

  5. Examine the medicine itself before taking it.
  6. Check for capsules or tablets that differ from the others that are enclosed. Do not use medicine from packages with tears, cuts, or other imperfections.

  7. Never take medicine in the dark.
  8. Make sure to take medications only when you can see them clearly.

  9. Examine the label and the medicine every time you take it or give it to someone else.
  10. This will ensure it hasn't been tampered with since you last checked.

  11. Tell somebody if the product doesn't look right.
  12. NEVER buy or use medicine that looks suspicious or has been obviously opened or tampered with. Always tell the store manager about a questionable product so that it can be removed from store shelves.

Before buying ANY over-the-counter medication, make sure you stop and take a look. Before making a final purchase, you should look again. If something looks strange or out of the ordinary, trust your instincts! If you suspect tampering, alert store/pharmacy staff immediately.

For more information, visit the FDA's website.

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