Attention A T users. To access the menus on this page please perform the following steps. 1. Please switch auto forms mode to off. 2. Hit enter to expand a main menu option (Health, Benefits, etc). 3. To enter and activate the submenu links, hit the down arrow. You will now be able to tab or arrow up or down through the submenu options to access/activate the submenu links.

Veterans Health Administration

Attention A T users. To access the combo box on this page please perform the following steps. 1. Press the alt key and then the down arrow. 2. Use the up and down arrows to navigate this combo box. 3. Press enter on the item you wish to view. This will take you to the page listed.
Veterans Health Administration
Quick Links
Veterans Crisis Line Badge
My healthevet badge

A New and Improved VA Prescription Label

Prescription label

VA has changed the format of your VA prescription label to make the most important information more visible.

By Hans Petersen, VA Staff Writer
Monday, January 26, 2015

VA asked hundreds of Veterans to tell us what they liked and didn’t like about the labels on their prescriptions.

We heard you. The results led to this new patient-centric prescription label.

We’ve cleaned up the look and made the following changes:

  • Your name has been moved to the top of the label.
  • Directions on how to take your medication are now larger and bolded.
  • The date the prescription can no longer be refilled is clearly stated.

The new design makes it easier to identify important drug and safety information.

4.8 Million Veterans Benefit from New Labels

VA has now adopted this patient-centric prescription label as the standard format for all VA pharmacies. The 4.8 million Veterans receiving VA prescription benefits now receive prescription labels with standardized information.

Over 400 Veterans and 700 VA pharmacy staff participated in the study.

Here’s a little more background:

Looking at the period from 2000 to 2011, pharmacists from VA’s National Center for Patient Safety (NCPS) identified 1,900 medication safety incidents in which a Veteran may not have understood their prescription label.

Over 400 Veterans and 700 VA pharmacy staff participated in a national study to better understand why this was occurring. NCPS in conjunction with Pharmacy Benefits Management Services conducted this study to identify ways to redesign the prescription label that would support Veterans’ preferences and enhance their understanding of important drug information.

According to Jeanne Tuttle, a National Pharmacist Program Manager with VA’s Pharmacy Benefits Management Services, “Improving and standardizing prescriptions labels is an important step, but ultimately our goal is to encourage Veterans to be active participants in improving their health outcomes. We want our Veterans to speak up and ask their pharmacist or provider if they are unclear on how to take their medication or what it is used for.”

Potential to Misinterpret Medication Labels

Here is a snapshot of the results from the study by Keith W. Trettin, an NCPS program manager:

The VA prescription benefit is one of the most frequently used by our Veterans. More than 4.8 million Veterans use this benefit and the number is growing by 1 percent per year. VA filled more than 143 million prescriptions for Veterans in fiscal year 2014, at a cost of approximately $3.7 billion. In support of the prescription benefit, VA employs more than 7,000 pharmacists and 4,000 pharmacy technicians.

When Veterans understand how to take their medications correctly, they have improved health outcomes and total health care costs decrease. However, NCPS saw cases in which Veterans misinterpreted their prescription labels and subsequently had a poor clinical outcome.

For example, Veterans have often misunderstood labels for diabetes medication that read “Take two tablets by mouth twice a day (half-an-hour before a meal)” to mean the medication should be taken before every meal — or — three times a day. This has resulted in patients experiencing hypoglycemia.

Studies have shown that depending on their literacy level, 25 to 88 percent of patients could not correctly state how to take their medications.

The project evaluated Veterans’ literacy with current VA prescription labels, as well as comprehension and satisfaction with a proposed new patient-centric label, using an evidence-based, patient-centric evaluation model. The goal was to provide evidence that a standardized patient-centric label can increase each Veteran’s understanding of how to take his or her medications.

The evidence is in and the new and improved patient-centric prescription labels are now the standard at all VA pharmacies.

Learn more about VA Prescription Refills online from My HealtheVet.