Find the active ingredient in your medicine
Most medicines have two names:
- the active ingredient which is the chemical in the medicine that makes it work, and
- the brand name which is the name given to the medicine by its manufacturer.
The active ingredient name is shown on the medicine’s packaging. The packaging must also show the strength – how much of the active ingredient is in that particular formulation. Some medicines are made in many different strengths
Occasionally, a medicine has more than one active ingredient. If so, the name of each active ingredient is shown on the medicine’s packaging and pharmacy dispensing label.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are ever unsure about what the active ingredient is or where to find it.
If you know the active ingredient, you can:
- recognise when two different brands are the same medicine
- identify when two medicines are not the same. Some brands of medicine sound very similar, but contain different active ingredients and are taken for different conditions
- check that you’re not taking a medicine you’re allergic to, or shouldn’t be taking with your other medicines
- identify suitable alternatives to your usual medicines when travelling overseas
- avoid accidental double-dosing.
Always check the active ingredient when you leave hospital with medicines, to reduce the risk of accidental overdose or interactions with your other medicines.