How to Identify Drugs - Pills, Tablets or Capsules

photo of pills, tablets and capsules
Double check the identification of your drugs as one way to stay safe. Getty-PeterDazeley.jpg

Maybe you found a pill on the floor and you aren't sure what it is. Or you've just picked up your new prescription at the pharmacist and you want to confirm it's the right drug. There are some simple ways to identify pills, tablets, and capsules.

Unless the drug is a good counterfeit, it's a very straightforward process to make the identification. By law, every pill, tablet or capsule approved by the FDA must be unique-looking, specifically to make identification easy.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 2 minutes

What You Need:

  • A computer and access to the Internet.
  • The pill, tablet or capsule you are trying to identify.

Here's How:

  1. A pill's design is a combination of:

    • The shape
    • The pattern (two-toned, banded, speckled or others)
    • The color(s)
    • Identifiers or imprints include numbers, names and letters, and sometimes a logo.
  2. To identify the pill, use this tool:

    Start by inputting just the identifying imprint, because you may need no more than that.

  3. Examples of how this works using the photo at the top of the page and either of the identifying tools:

    • Top pill: Input KU 118. You'll learn that it is omeprazole, 20 mg, and is prescribed for GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease.)
    • The bottom pill's identifier is CIP 500. It is identified as Cipro 500 mg. However, the photo of that tablet looks slightly different. In this case, consider checking with your pharmacist to be sure you have been given the right drug, and that it isn't counterfeit.


    1. If the identifier doesn't give you an answer, try again including the physical description, too.

    2. Having trouble making the identification? It may not be an FDA approved drug. It could be an illegal drug, a counterfeit, or even an alternative remedy.

    3. Still can't identify the pill? You may want to take it to your pharmacist to ask his or her help. If you don't want to ask for help, then throw it away. Don't risk taking a drug when you don't know what it is or how it could possibly harm you.

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