Non-prescription drug labels

When you buy non-prescription (over-the-counter) medications for you and your family, you need information to help you make an informed choice.

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Changes to non-prescription drug labels

Health Canada has introduced new labelling requirements for non-prescription drugs. We are changing non-prescription drug labels to make important information about your medicine easier to read, understand and easier to locate on the package.

Sometimes, it can be confusing to understand the information listed on an over-the counter medication. To help reduce any confusion, non-prescription drug labels must follow these requirements and be updated by June 2021, in accordance with the Plain Language Labelling Regulations.  These new requirements will help you clearly see:

  • what you are buying
  • what it will do for you
  • how to use it
  • who should use it
  • whether there are warnings or specific instructions for safe use
  • what to do if you have an adverse reaction

Most products in your medicine cabinet are regulated by Health Canada and are required to include specific information on the labels. Non-prescription drug products (over-the-counter medications) must have a Drug Identification Number (DIN) in order to be sold on Canadian store shelves and online.  

New Canadian Drug Facts Table (CDFT) for non-prescription medication

Information about your non-prescription drugs will be easier to read, find, and understand. Here is how:

  1. Active ingredient (also known as medicinal ingredient): What medicinal ingredients the product contains and their strength or amount in the product.
  2. Purpose: What each ingredient does. For example, a cough and cold product might include a decongestant and a cough reliever.
  3. Uses: What is the intended benefit for the product.
  4. Warnings: Whether or not this product is safe for you. This is important to read if you have an allergy, a medical condition and/or are pregnant or breastfeeding. Instructions about side effects and when to get medical help may also be included.
  5. Directions: How to use the product safely.
  6. Other information: Lets you know when you need to read a package insert for more information. It may also include how to properly store or dispose of a product.
  7. Inactive ingredients: What ingredients are in the product that don’t have a medical benefit. This can include coatings and flavours.
  8. Questions: How to contact the company responsible for the product, usually as a telephone number, website, or email address, to ask questions or to report side effects.

The information may appear as two unilingual tables, or as one bilingual table. It may also be split over multiple panels of a carton. Look for a signal to keep reading, like the arrow in the example above. If a package is small (like a bottle of eye drops), the table is adjusted accordingly to fit. All the important information will still be on or in the package. You could see additional instructions on another side of the package or on a package insert.

Other ways in which the recent changes will make labels easier for you to read, find and understand the information you need are:

  • information is in dark coloured font on a white background to maximize the contrast of information
  • headings and subheadings use standardized vocabulary/words
  • bullets help shorten long statements
  • minimum 6 point font size is used for information inside the table

In some cases, a link to a website may be included in the Canadian Drug Facts Table. You can follow the link to access additional information electronically. 

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