Drugs are chemical substances which by interacting with the biological systems produce some changes in them. There are a variety of drugs available for use in the diagnosis, cure, treatment, or prevention of disease. These drugs fall into two broad categories:
- prescription drugs and
- over-the-counter (OTC) drugs
Prescription (prescription medications or legend drugs) are drugs that are accessible only by prescription from a licensed practitioner. Although these drugs have been tested for safety and therapeutic effect, they may cause different reactions in some individuals.
Drugs that fall under this classification are:
- Those given by injection
- Hypnotic or soporific drugs (commonly known as sleeping pills)
- Narcotics (drugs that have analgesic and sedative effect)
- Habit-forming drugs
- Drugs that are unsafe unless administered under the supervision of a licensed practitioner
- New drugs that are still being investigated and not considered safe for indiscriminate use by the public
Read Also: Understanding Pharmaceutical Dosage Forms
Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs
Over-the-counter drugs are called non-prescription drugs and are available to the public without a prescription. Most of them are for self-limiting conditions and appropriate labels for use are usually provided. Some over-the-counter drugs were at one time available by prescription but later were considered safe for use by the public or reformulated for over-the-counter use. Some drugs can be sold in lower doses over-the-counter while higher doses of the same drug require a prescription as per Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements.
Some examples of over-the-counter drugs include:
- Pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) e.g., ibuprofen, aspirin etc.
- Cough medications like dextromethorphan (Triaminic Cold and Cough, Vicks 44 Cough and Cold etc), guaifenesin (Mucinex, Robitussin Chest Congestion)
- Antihistamines like Chlorphenamine (Piriton), loratadine (Claritin 24H), cetirizine (Zyrtec) etc.
- Decongestants e.g., pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), Oxymetazoline (Afrin) etc.
Key differences between prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs
Here are the key differences between and prescription drugs and OTC drugs.
|Prescription drugs||Over-the-Counter drugs|
|Prescribed by a licensed practitioner||Does NOT require a prescription from a licensed practitioner to be dispensed.|
|Bought at a pharmacy||Bought off-the-shelf in at drug stores or groceries|
|Prescribed for and intended to be used by one person||Considered safe for just about everyone and may have a variety of intended purposes|
|Regulated by FDA through the New Drug Application (NDA) process||Regulated by FDA through OTC Drug monographs|
- Aguwa, C. and Akah, P. (2006). How Drugs Act. In C. Aguwa and J. Ogbuokiri (Eds.), A Handbook of Pharmacology for Nursing and Allied Health Professions (pp. 2-7). Nigeria: Africana First Publishers Limited.
- FDA (n.d.). Prescription Drugs and Over-the-Counter (OTC) Drugs: Questions and Answers. Retrieved March 29, 2020, from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/questions-answers/prescription-drugs-and-over-counter-otc-drugs-questions-and-answers
- Kamienski, M. and Keogh, J. (2006). Pharmacology Demystified. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Related keywords: prescription drugs that are now over the counter, how are over-the-counter (OTC) drugs different from prescriptions quizlet, a prescription can be written for over the counter drugs. true or false, prescription and nonprescription drugs ppt, can a prescription can be written for over the counter drugs, examples of over the counter drugs, how does a prescription drug become an over-the-counter drug