Over the decades, prescription drugs and over-the-counter medication (OTCs) have continued to each have their place in improving our health and wellness. However, understanding the difference between both types of drugs, especially in the US market, can help people at drug stores and those who purchase medications from wholesalers make the right or better decisions regarding how they are used.
In America, as in many other countries like most European countries and some Asian countries, prescription drugs will require a prescription from a qualified, licensed doctor or even some other medical professional who has a license to write prescriptions. On the other hand, over-the-counter drugs are medicines that people can purchase without a prescription at their local grocery or drug stores.
The definition of an over-the-counter drug and a prescription drug, for the most part, varies from one country to the next. That means some drugs that are only available with a prescription in North America could possibly be purchased elsewhere without one.
Over-the-counter drugs, or OTCs as they are called, enjoy revenue growth and wide sales. Interestingly many prescription allergy medications have been switched to OTCs, which have helped fuel sales of them. The Consumer Healthcare Products Association states that 81% percent of adults in North America buy and use OTCs as their initial form of treatment, usually for minor illnesses like headaches or common colds. Americans, on average, make around 26 trips a year to purchase OTCs. But they visit a doctor only three times a year.
The Food and Drug Administration in America is responsible for determining which medications can only be sold with a prescription by pharmacies. But there are several types of professionals who can write a prescription, including dentists, physicians, physician assistants, psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, and even advanced practice nurses. If it’s for an animal, a veterinarian can also write a prescription.
What are the Key Differences between Prescription and Over the Country Medicines?
The main difference between both types of medicines is that with the one, you require a doctor to write out a prescription, but with the other, you don’t need a prescription. However, there are a couple of other differences, some of which we’ll outline below:
- Prescription medications are designed to be used by a particular type of medicine and for a specific use case. For the most part, OTC medications are considered safe for everyone and have a variety of purposes. OTCs are also sometimes referred to as broad-spectrum medication for this very same reason. When doctors write out prescriptions, they take a lot of information into consideration about the patient, their current health, vital statics, drug allergies, and other medication. That’s why prescription medication can be lethal if not dangerous a person for whom it is not intended.
- OTC drugs or medicines are only used to treat minor ailments. Illnesses like cancer, diabetes, or heath diseases, often require more powerful prescription medications in conjunction with other treatments.
- OTCs aren’t as strong as their prescription counterparts, but they also tend to be safer, so many more people can use them. However, prescription drugs can’t and shouldn’t be used for by people to who it was not prescribed.
- OTC drugs tend to have much lower dosages compared to their prescription drug counterparts. However, a few prescription drugs are available and sold as OTC drugs, but when they are sold over the counter, their potency is much lower to make them safer to use. Two excellent examples of this are hydrocortisone and Prilosec, which are sold in both OTC and prescription forms.
- OTCs are also generally less expensive compared to prescription drugs. However, that’s with the exception of some generic prescription medication that can be cheaper than OTC drugs. That said, generally, prescription medication is more expensive. Now in the case of drugs used for cancer treatment and the treatment for other serious conditions, the cost of drugs is unusually high.
Over the Counter Mediations that are Restricted
Now, some types of OTC medications tend to be kept behind the counter in many if not all pharmacies and customers need to place a special request, provide identification, etc., to buy them. A couple of examples of these types of medicines are cold and allergy medicines or ones that contain ephedrine and pseudoephedrine.
Usually, public policymakers will restrict access to these types of medications since they can and have been used in the manufacture of illegal narcotics, like methamphetamine, which is highly addictive. So, by limiting how many of these drugs are sold and by tracking buyers, authorities can easily crackdown on the manufacturing of illegal drugs.
Whether you are taking non-prescription or prescription medication, it is important to follow directions and use them only as intended. Using prescription drugs for recreation is not advised since they are powerful and can lead to an addiction. Also, it’s very important to keep up with expiration dates which will help you ensure that you don’t take an ineffective drug.
The FDA’s Process of Determining Prescription Only Drugs
Almost every drug company in the US that wants to sell a new drug must test it the way the FDA requires it. It will often include animal and lab tests. The FDA-approved drugs may also go into human clinical trials to determine if they are safe and if they are effective.
After thorough testing, the drug company will submit what’s called a New Drug Application. If this is a biologic drug, then a Biologics License Application is submitted. Either application tends to include test results and manufacture information as well as a proposed label. The label needs to bear information about the medicine and the risks associated with its use.
On the other hand, OTC drugs are developed using the NDA process or what’s called OTC Monograph. The company that seeks to market the new product as an OTC needs to apply to the Division of Non-Prescription Drug Products. They (DNDP) then review consumer studies, the proposed labeling, and other regulatory issues before deciding.
Hospitals, drug sellers, and others in the health care industry may import OTCC and prescription drugs from wholesales in the US for use in their facilities. However, because the FDA is so active and powerful, American drugs are generally thought of as highly effective and safe, so they are preferred. Facilities overseas seeking to import FDA-approved drugs need to do so via a wholesaler with experience in legalities and logistics before they can be shipped overseas. The entire process is made to ensure that drugs both OTCs and prescription drugs aren’t abused. Save on your prescription needs with your PhilRx discount drug card. Get yours today at either the Apple Store or Google Play Store.