What is the Difference Between over-The-Counter and Prescription Medicines?

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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 February 2020
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There are a number of differences between prescription and over-the-counter medicines, as anyone who has visited an emergency room or family physician for treatment can attest. Over-the-counter medications are generally intended for minor ailments such as indigestion, headaches or coughing, while prescription medications could be used to treat major ailments such as diabetes, cancer or heart disease, for instance. Non-prescription medicines are usually not formulated to be as strong as their prescribed counterparts, although this is not necessarily a reflection on their effectiveness.

One difference between the two kinds of medicine is access. Only qualified and licensed medical professionals can order prescription medicines for their patients, and only qualified pharmacists can fill those orders. Over-the-counter medicines, however, do not require a doctor's order, and many can be purchased at outlets other than pharmacies. A prescribed medicine is intended for a specific patient, and cannot be legally shared with others. Non-prescribed medicines, however, can be handed out to any friend, co-worker or family member suffering from the same ailment, as long as the proper dosing instructions are followed.


Another difference between the two medicines is formulation. Prescribed medicines are usually formulated to a therapeutic strength in order for the physician to provide an aggressive treatment. Unauthorized use of these drugs could end in tragedy, since there are any number of drug interactions to be considered before the patient receives the medication. Non-prescribed medicines, on the other hand, are generally formulated to a strength deemed "safe and effective" by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If dosing instructions are followed properly, many non-prescribed medicines can be used together without fear of dangerous interactions or overdoses.

Cost is another difference between many of these medicines. Almost all prescription drug formulations are protected by patent laws for a certain number of years, which means the drug company responsible for creating a prescribed drug can price their exclusive drugs accordingly. Only one drug manufacturer may make a prescription sleep aid called AmbienĀ®, for instance, although other drugs may accomplish similar goals. Most over-the-counter drug formulas are no longer proprietary secrets, however, so a number of companies can produce aspirin or cough syrup and compete side-by-side on store shelves.

Prescrinbed drugs are also covered under many insurance plans, which means patients only pay a small deductible for the benefits of expensive prescription medications. Non-prescribed medications are rarely covered by insurance, which means the consumer must pay the entire market price for those medicines. Some non-prescribed medicines, especially those which were once available by prescription only, can be moderately expensive, although most over-the-counter medicines for routine ailments are generally inexpensive. While a prescribed drug may or may not have a less expensive generic version, a non-prescription drug produced by a recognized company such as Bayer may have to compete with cheaper store brands or similar medications produced by lesser-known companies.


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Post 2

Cupcake15-I know that over the counter diet pills like over the counter Hoodia pills are very popular. I always try to be careful and not go near these pills because the FDA does not approve them and there is usually a small disclaimer on the television commercials.

Also some of these pills have been known to cause damage to vital organs such as your liver and kidneys.

For example, years ago a diet drug called Fen-Fen was all the rage and people were taking it because it promised dramatic weight loss.

I had a friend that took this drug to lose weight and actually caused irreparable damage to her heart. She now has a serious heart condition

because of this drug.

A doctor should determine the best course of action and should evaluate any one looking to lose weight. A good doctor will offer a complete medical exam in order to determine how healthy you are and what types of appetite suppressants can be prescribed.

This includes not only taking your vital signs but also includes an echocardiogram and a food diary or a list of the typical foods that a patient eats on a daily basis.

Losing weight requires a holistic approach that calls for measuring the current health of the patient in order to determine the proper course of care. The doctor will prescribe appetite suppressants that you can use safely.

Post 1

Over the counter allergy medication includes Claritin D and Claritin 24 hour. This used to be a prescription drug but now it is available over the counter.

The Claritin 24 hour medication is excellent for allergies. It dries up your nose and relieves you of headaches and itchy eyes as well as a lack of energy that is often associated with allergy symptoms.

Zyrtec is also another excellent over the counter drug that cures allergic reactions almost instantly. Every time my daughter gets an allergic reaction and breaks out in hives, she only needs one dosage and she is cured.

It can cause drowsiness so I would not give this to her if she were going to

school. I also think that a very effective over the counter flu medication is Theraflu.

It really only takes about a half hour to take effect and it starts to relieve the symptoms of the flu. It is really hard to get used to the taste, but I just sip it as quickly as possible so that I am not impacted by the taste.

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