Why Are Some Medicines Prescription Only While Some Others OTC? 

A prescription at a Los Angeles Pharmacy
Why Are Some Medicines Prescription Only While Some Others OTC? 

Anyone looking for allergy medicine Claritin will easily find it on the shelves of any retail pharmacy in the country. These are called over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and save the US healthcare system billions of dollars per year as per a study conducted by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. OTC medicines are popular among people who want to completely participate in their care and save money in the process. When users engage more with their health, many good things can happen. People make fewer doctor visits and have less time away from work when using over-the-counter medications rather than seeking a prescription.


Difference Between OTC And Prescription Medicines 

The US law has classified drugs into two groups, prescription, and non-prescription. Prescription medicines are regulated by the FDA via the New Drug Application Process for approval for marketing in the country, whereas OTC medicines are regulated via a monograph that contains acceptable formulations, ingredients, doses, and labeling needs.


As the name suggests, prescription-only medicines can only be purchased with a prescription from a healthcare professional. The prescription classification is intended to reduce the risk of people misusing dangerous or habit-forming medicines, including those used for difficult-to-diagnose health conditions. These medicines are intended for use by an individual to treat a specific health condition. When starting the prescription medication, the person is legally entitled to discuss the medication with a pharmacist.


One can purchase OTC medicines even without any prescription. You need not visit a prescriber or consult with a pharmacist to have OTC medicines. However, consulting a doctor before starting a course of OTC medication is advisable. This is because some of us can be allergic to certain over-the-counter medications, and some other OTC medications might not be safe for pregnant women. Moreover, some pain, flu, cold, and other OTC medications can increase the blood pressure of the user or may interfere with medications used for blood pressure management.


Precautions Needed For OTC Medicines 

The FDA has put forward strict labeling requirements for over-the-counter medicines. Anyone reading the drug facts label of an over-the-counter drug should be able to understand if the drug is suitable for them, understand the warnings and follow the usage directions. OTC medicines are also subject to misuse. For instance, poisoning from acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a common cause of death and poisoning by medications. Likewise, overuse of medicines like ibuprofen can result in intestinal ulcers and bleeding and can also increase the chances of heart attack and stroke.