Labels on prescription and over-the-counter medicines in Australia are about to be updated. This includes the labels on complementary medicines such as vitamins and supplements. The changes will gradually start taking place from 31 August 2016 in response to new requirements from the Therapeutic Goods Administration.1

However, you may not notice much difference to your medicine labels straight away, as manufacturers and suppliers have up to four years to make the changes needed.1

Why are medicine labels changing?

  • To allow you to find important information more easily.
  • So you can make important decisions about your health with the information provided.
  • To make sure all medicine labels carry the same important information.
  • So Australian medicines are up to date with international best practice.

What will the changes look like?

For over-the-counter medicines:

  • the active ingredients (that make the medicine work) will be easier to find and read on the new label
  • other ingredients in the medicine that could cause allergic reactions (such as shellfish, fish, eggs, soya, milk and tree nuts) will need to be listed on labels
  • a table will be included on the new label to help you find important information about your medicine.2

The type of information that will be in the table is shown below:

Medicine information

Active ingredient

Indication (what it is used for)

Warnings

Directions for use

Other information

For prescription medicines:

  • the active ingredients (that make the medicine work) will be easier to find and read on the new label
  • other ingredients in the medicine that could cause allergic reactions (such as shellfish, fish, eggs, soya, milk and tree nuts) will need to be listed on labels, otherwise there must be a statement on the label directing you to the Consumer Medicine Information leaflet for more information.1
  • a clear space for a dispensing label must be available. Pharmacists add these labels and include important information like your name and dosage instructions. Having a clear space for a dispensing label will make sure that other information on a carton or bottle is not covered.

Some ingredient names will also change

All medicines are made up of active ingredients that make the medicine work, and inactive ingredients that help to form the medicine.

Sometimes, one or more ingredients in a medicine can have different names depending on the country where the medicine is sold. In addition, some active ingredient names used in Australia are no longer current and different from international names.

So to avoid confusion, the Therapeutics Goods Administration is updating some medicine ingredient names used in Australia so they are the same as names used internationally. You may not notice all the changes immediately, as manufacturers and suppliers of medicines have been given until the end of April 2020 to include the new active ingredient names on their labels.3

The updates will depend on the medicine. For some it is a single letter change in the spelling. For other medicines, the active ingredient name will change a lot and may not look anything like the old name.

Remember – changes to the label do not mean your medicine has changed. The changes are to make sure you have all the information you need to make the right decisions about taking medicines for your health. Always check to see you have the correct medicine name and active ingredient before buying your medicine.

A full list of the affected medicines is provided on the TGA website. Some examples of medicines where the name is scheduled to change are shown in the table:4

Old medicine nameNew medicine name
Amoxycillinamoxicillin
Frusemidefurosemide (frusemide)
Lignocainelidocaine (lignocaine)
Eformoterolformoterol (eformoterol)

How does this affect you?

If you notice that the name of the medicine you take has changed, you will see the old name in brackets next to the new name (as shown in the table above). This is one way to confirm that you are taking the same medicine, despite the name change of the active ingredient. Nonetheless, always ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure whether you are taking the right medicine.

Remember – even if the name of the active ingredient has slightly changed, the medicine is still the same.