Six Must-Check when Buying Drugs!

pharmacist suggesting medical drug to buyer in pharmacy drugstore
Credit: Evidence Network

Pharmacists/pharmacist assistants sometimes can be overworked putting you at risk of dispensing error. We bring you a list of six things you can do on your part to eradicate this risk and help your pharmacist/pharmacist assistants serve you better as before buying drugs.



Ensure the name of the drug presented to you correspond with the name you intend to buy/on your prescription. Some drugs have quite very close brand name e.g cardioace (supplement) and cardiosave (antihypertensive), some may even look alike in their packaging. As professionals, our emphasis is on the generic name of the drug (the active ingredient). Prescribers are expected to write prescriptions using drug’s generic names, this ensures patients get their medications irrespective of the brands available. However, this may not be applicable to drugs with many components.

Whichever way your prescription is written or if you are only refilling your meds or buying drugs that are called “over the counter meds”, ensure you can clearly locate the name of the drug both on the pack, the bottle, the sachet, etc (as the case may be).

Asides the brand name which most times is written boldly on the pack, look out for statement like “each tablet contains bla bla bla”; to confirm the active agent.


This is usually written in milligrams. A drug can come in multiple strengths, ensure you have the appropriate strength recommended for you. For example, an antibiotic like levofloxacin has 250mg, 500mg, 750mg tablets. Levofloxacin is used only in adults, the smaller strengths are not for children (contraindicated in children), the doses are varied base on the severity of the infection. Buying a lower dose, can pose a risk of treatment failure.

For drugs with multiple components, you may need to confirm the strength of each agent. Many antihypertensive formulations have multiple components- mostly two agents, some three agents in one tablet. This helps to reduce pill burden because these medications are taken on long term basis. Ensure the strength of each agent correspond with your prescription to avoid overdose/underdose.


You really don’t want to get to your house before discovering that the drug you bought has expired (it can be very annoying). In as much pharmacy outlets are expected to clear off expired drugs from their shelves, it is not impossible that there may be error of omission sometimes.

It is important to note that some drugs may not have harmful effects if taken after expiration, however, some other drugs may have very toxic effects on the internal organs. Example of such drug is tetracycline: can lead to kidney damage if taken after expiration.

Ensure the drug has a “good date” before paying for it.


NAFDAC number simply tells you the drug has been certified safe and fit for use in Nigeria.NAFDAC issues out the number after checking some important parameters about the drug. As such you can consider a drug without NAFDAC number, as fake or substandard.

However, note that some imported drugs may not be registered in Nigeria (but registered with the drug control agency where they were produced e.g supplements).

NAFDAC expects all drugs been marketed in the country to be registered with the agency, including the imported ones so they can certify them good for use.

Ensure you can locate the number on the drug before paying for it.


I doubt if you will want to buy a drug that the package has been soiled with may be water or looks like it was just removed from under a truck. Good/intact packaging is as important as quality content.

If the drug is in a sachet, check to see if any tablet is missing, broken or incomplete (can happen due to manufacturing error) and check if the foil cover has been opened or tampered with.

For syrups formulations, check if the pack is soiled (may be from the content or another leaking bottle), ensure the cap is well fitted and sealed.

Also, check the injections to be sure the content has not leaked when buying drugs.

In summary, check the drug properly and be sure you are satisfied with what you are about to buy. This will safe you a lot of stress, because most pharmacy outlets are reluctant to accept returned drugs or make refunds for some reasons.


Mobile Authentication Service (MAS) is a very easy way to confirm if a drug is genuine or not when buying drugs.

Most drugs now come with codes which you can send to a designated number at no cost and receive immediate response of either “Genuine” or “fake”.

Check if the drug you are about to buy has this code, scratch and send to the correct designated number written on the drug pack.

CAUTION: Currently there are multiple designated numbers, ensure you send to the exact number written on the drug pack. The numbers are yet to be harmonized, sending to another number asides the one on the drug pack can give you a wrong response. Most patients get a response of fake because of this mix up causing panic to them and embarrassment to the pharmacy outlets.

Kindly ensure to send to the appropriate number.

If you are confused at any point, call the attention of the pharmacist on duty when buying drugs.


Share this information with your family and friends and don’t hesitate to drop a comment. We will like to hear from you. Thanks

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