Prescription bottle

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A clear orange prescription bottle with a white cap
A white prescription bottle
A clear glass prescription bottle with a white cap
Selection of prescription bottle designs

Prescription bottles are containers that contain prescription drugs prescribed by physicians. Prescription bottles are generally found in pharmacies.

Prescription bottles have been around since the 19th-century. Throughout the 19th and 20th-centuries, prescription medication bottles were called medicinal bottles.[1] There are many styles and shapes of prescription bottles. They come in: cylindrical and round,[2] square,[3] rectangular,[4] oval,[5] and other shapes.[6]

Prescription bottles come in several different colors, the most common of which being orange or light brown due to its ability to prevent ultraviolet light from degrading the potentially photosensitive contents through photochemical reactions, while still letting enough visible light through for the contents to be easily visible. Other common colors include: Clear (for compounds that don't degrade in light), blue, dark brown, green, and various opaque hues.[7]


Packaging of prescriptions is often highly regulated, depending own the contents and the location. Child-resistant packaging is often called for; this consists of special caps or closures which are designed to deter children from opening the containers.


Target ClearRx prescription bottles

ClearRx is a trademark for a design for prescription drug packaging, designed by design student Deborah Adler as a thesis project and adopted by Target Corporation (with refinements by industrial designer Klaus Rosburg) for use in their in-store pharmacies in 2005.[8] The design is an attempt to clarify certain difficult aspects common to most prescription bottles.[9]

Bottles have a distinctive rounded-wedge shape and are designed to stand on their caps, with the label folding over the top of the bottle, where the name of the drug is printed in large print for easy identification. A cutout on the back of the bottle includes space for a data card describing the effects and risks of the medication. Fundamental to the design is a colored rubber ring that serves as a color code so different members of a household can distinguish their individual prescriptions. An overall priority is given to distinguishability; the most important information (patient name, drug name, instructions) are placed prominently on the upper half of the label. Other innovations include revised warning symbols and labels and a small magnifying strip that can be inserted into the side of the bottle for customers with visual impairments.[10]

Liquid medicine bottles are not quite as distinctive, but feature a spill proof cap coupled with a dosing syringe that is claimed to be more accurate than spoon dispensing. The liquid medicine bottles also feature the color-coded ring around the neck.

The design won the "Design of the Decade" award from the Industrial Designers Society of America in 2010[9] and is included in the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection. After Target sold their in-store pharmacy and clinic operations to CVS Health in December 2015, CVS discontinued the use of ClearRx.[8]


  1. ^ Lindsey, Bill. "Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes". Bill Lindsey. Retrieved 27 August 2011. 
  2. ^ Lindsey, Bill. "Round Medicinal Bottles". Bill Lindsey. Retrieved 27 August 2011. 
  3. ^ Lindsey, Bill. "Square Medicinal Bottles". Bill Lindsey. Retrieved 27 August 2011. 
  4. ^ Lindsey, Bill. "Rectangular Medicinal Bottles". Bill Lindsey. Retrieved 27 August 2011. 
  5. ^ Lindsey, Bill. "Oval Medicinal Bottles". Bill Lindsey. Retrieved 27 August 2011. 
  6. ^ Lindsey, Bill. "Other Shapes of Medicinal Bottles". Bill Lindsey. Retrieved 27 August 2011. 
  7. ^ "Why are Many Bottles Brown?". Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Quito, Anne (30 September 2016). "People are digging through their trash and reusing Target's well-designed prescription pill bottles". Quartz. Archived from the original on 17 October 2016. Retrieved 23 March 2017. 
  9. ^ a b Jones, Kate (15 March 2011). "ClearRx wins Design of the Decade". Curve. Archived from the original on 21 March 2014. Retrieved 23 March 2017. 
  10. ^ "ClearRx: It all started with a strong dose of common sense.". Target Corporation. Target Corporation. Archived from the original on 14 September 2011. Retrieved 27 August 2011. 
  • US patent 7311205, Deborah B. Adler, Klaus Rosburg, Patrick L. Douglas, Matthew S. Grisik, "Pharmacy Bottle System Including Label", issued 2007-12-25 
  • US patent D542661, Deborah B. Adler, Klaus Rosburg, Patrick Douglas, Matthew S. Grisik, "Bottle", issued 2007-5-15