When you buy prescription and over-the-counter medicines, sunscreens or vitamin supplements, you need important information to help you make an informed choice. And medicine labels tell you what you are buying, what the medicine can do for you and how to use it.

Over the next four years, medicine labels will change to make it easier to find the information you need, says the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the Australian regulatory authority.

The changes are the result of many years of consultation, and they bring Australian medicine labels up to date with international best practice.

The labelling will make it easier to find the active ingredient or the substance in the medicine that makes it work. You probably know of paracetamol, ibuprofen or insulin: all of these substances are active ingredients.

Under the new labelling rules, active ingredients need to be more prominent. You will find them below or next to the product name on the front of the medicine pack. Active ingredients will often be in a larger print size on the front label to make them easier to read.

Under the new rules, more substances that could cause an allergic reaction will need to be included on labels. These substances include crustacea, fish, eggs, soya, milk and tree nuts.

For non-prescription medicines, this information will be on the label. For prescription medicines this information must appear on the label or in the Consumer Medicine Information leaflet with a prompt on the pack.

The new labelling rules took effect from August 31, 2016. There is a four-year transition period to allow medicine manufacturers time to update their labels and to sell their existing stock. From September 1, 2020, all medicine labels will need to meet the new rules.

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