Check Your Medicine - Before You Buy It

I was in a grocery store recently to purchase some over-the-counter medicine. The first package I picked out had obviously been opened. I looked inside the box and found the medicine still in the packaging. It appeared that someone was looking at the...


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I was in a grocery store recently to purchase some over-the-counter medicine. The first package I picked out had obviously been opened. I looked inside the box and found the medicine still in the packaging. It appeared that someone was looking at the contents. This experience reminded me, in part, of a chapter I wrote for the publication, Retail Crime, Security, and Loss Prevention: An Encyclopedic Reference - published by Elsevier, authored by Charles Sennewald and John Christman.

The history of "tamper proof" packaging dates back to 1982 when seven people died after taking Tylenol capsules containing cyanide. As a result of those deaths and others to follow, the Food and Drug Administration mandated tamper proof packaging. Now when you can't open your own medicine bottles - you know who to thank.

Back to my story - I examined the store shelf, looking for other open packages. I didn't find any and gave the one I did find to the store manager. I also found a few products that had passed their expiration date and gave them to him also.

My point it - take the time to examine packaging when purchasing products. Retailers commonly allow customers to return previously purchased over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. The Consumer Healthcare Products Association recommends these important safety tips for inspecting returned OTC medicines and dietary supplement products:

  • Check for dirt or discoloration on the package. This could be a sign of improper storage.
  • Check for tape on the package. This may indicate that the product has been removed and replaced with something else.
  • Check for ink spots on the package. Some individuals who replace the contents of a package with another product or even foreign material, mark the tampered-with carton so they do not accidentally repurchase it themselves. This has the case in some product tampering cases. 
  • Check for excess glue on the package. If applied by the actual supplier, the glue should be virtually unnoticeable.
  • Check for loose flaps, cuts, or tears on the packaging.
  • Check for stickers or strange tags.
  • If the package makes a strange sound when shaken, this could be a sign that something other than the intended product is in the container.

Always check your OTC medicines. Stores should, but often don't, have a process in place for examining packaging before placing returned OTC medicines to the shelf. It's one of those cases of - buyer beware.

Curtis Baillie - Security Consulting Strategies, LLC