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How to Use a Pill Imprint Identifier

written by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • edited by: Anurag Ghosh • updated: 5/4/2010

If you've ever been unable to identify a pill, a pill imprint identifier is a useful tool for your home health arsenal. Find out what they are and who can benefit from their use.

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    Have you ever picked up a prescription at the pharmacy, only to get home and find that the pills in the bottle aren't the same as the ones you usually take? Have you ever found an unidentified pill on the bottom of your purse? If either of these situations have happened to you, then you've had a good reason to use a pill identifier. Learning how to use a pill imprint identifier can help to keep you safe when taking prescription medications or assist you in identifying unknown pills.

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    What is Pill Identification?

    A pill identifier can be an online tool or a book that is used to help identify pills that are prescription or and over the counter types. Online versions of the pill identifier usually allow you to search by shape, color, size, or imprint of a pill. Books may classify pills by color, size, and shape as well. The pill identifier can assist you identifying pills before you take them so that you don't take the wrong medication and suffer harmful effects. Pill identification is useful for a wide range of purposes and can be used by people who have no training in the medical profession.

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    Popular Tools

    There are several popular pill imprint identifiers available online and in print. Physician's Desk Reference, a well-known drug reference handbook, contains a section that shows pictures of pills in different dosages. Online versions are more plentiful, with popular versions found at WebMD, Drugs.com, and RxList.com. These Web sites make it easy for users to enter information and view results based on their input.

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    Who Uses Them and Why?

    There are several groups of people who can benefit most from the use of an online or print pill identifier. One of those groups is people who are on prescription medications. Because generic versions of medications may be substituted for the brand name versions, you may become accustomed to seeing a certain pill in your prescription bottle, and then get surprised with a completely different pill when you get your prescription refilled. You can use a generic pill identifier or a prescription pill identifier to find out if the pills are the ones the pharmacist was supposed to give you. If the information in the pill identifier does not match up with what your doctor told you about a medicine, call the pharmacy immediately.

    Parents can also use pill identification methods to their advantage. Children may bring home over the counter pills from their friends' houses or school. Even if another parent gave your child the pills, it is still wise to check them with a pill identifier to ensure that they won't be harmed by an allergic reaction or harmful side effect.

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    Potential Dangers

    If you have any question about the pills you have received, and cannot identify your pills with one hundred percent confidence when using this type of tool, call your doctor or pharmacist. While pill identifiers are good tools, they are created by humans and are subject to occasional errors in data entry of information.