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Recognizing Medication Tampering

Over-the-counter and nonprescription medicines are packaged so you can easily notice signs of tampering.

Improved packaging includes the use of special wrappers, seals or caps on the outer and/or inner containers, or sealing each dose in its own pouch.

Even so, no packaging system is completely safe, so it's important that you check for signs of tampering whenever you buy or use a medicine.

The following guidelines can help you detect possible signs of tampering.

How easy to tamper?

When buying a drug product, ask yourself: Would it be easy for someone to tamper with this product? Will I be able to determine whether this product has been tampered with?

Look closely

Inspect the outer packaging of the product before you buy it. After you buy it, check the inner packaging as soon as possible. Never take medicine if you are not alert or can't see clearly. Turn on the light; don't take medicine in the dark. Look at the label and the medicine every time you take it.

Protective packaging

If the medicine has a protective packaging feature, it should be described on the label. If the feature is broken or missing, don't use the product; return it to the store. Always be sure to tell someone in charge about any problems.

Avoid problems

Don't take medicines that show any signs of tampering.

Signs of packaging tampering

  • Breaks, cracks or holes in the outer or inner wrapping or protective cover or seal.

  • Outer or inner covering appears to have been disturbed, unwrapped or replaced.

  • A plastic or tight-fitting wrap around the top of the bottle appears distorted or stretched, as though it had been rolled down and then put back into place.

  • The bottom of the cap isn't intact.

  • The cap isn't on tight.

  • Bits of paper or glue are stuck on the rim of the container, making it seem as if the container once had a bottle seal.

  • The cotton plug or filler in the bottle is torn, sticky or stained.

  • The expiration date, lot number and other information aren't the same on both the container and its outer wrapping or box.


  • The tablets look different than they usually do.

  • The tablets aren't all the same size and thickness.

  • The tablets have a strange or different odor or taste.

  • Some of the tablets are broken.


  • The capsules look different than they usually do.

  • Some are cracked or dented.

  • They aren't all the same size and color.

  • The capsules aren't all the same length.