Active ingredients are listed separately because these are the components in the medication that directly treat symptoms, making them the most important element of any drug. These ingredients are listed separately in order to enable easy identification for the consumer, as some substances are often not suitable for all people.
The inactive ingredients in medication are all the other components that are added during manufacturing. These may range from simple dyes to make pills more attractive, to flavorings or preservatives. In general, inactive ingredients have no real effect on the body when taken, although there are exceptions.
Alcohol, for example, is listed as an inactive ingredient in some medications, but is technically inactive or active depending on how it is used in the overall drug composition, according to Drugs.com.
All inactive ingredients are approved by the FDA, much like the more important active ingredients.
Many active ingredients are commonly known. Aspirin, for example, is an active ingredient in many medications thanks to its ability to reduce inflammation, limit pain and lower fever symptoms.
Knowing the active ingredient in a medication allows consumers to make an informed choice regarding what over-the-counter medications are appropriate for their condition, as some drugs may conflict with others or cause allergic reactions.