Non-prescription (over-the-counter, or OTC) products are items you can buy to provide self-care. They are sold virtually everywhere you go – in convenience stores, beauty shops, gas stations, hotels, airports, and vending machines. The fact that anyone can sell them makes some people think they are completely safe. However, this is not the case.
Why can anyone sell powerful medications?
These products can be sold in any location because there is no law against it. Manufacturers offer their products to anyone who wants them. These products are still powerful, potentially dangerous medications that must be taken very carefully. Even though your gas station attendant can sell them, it does not make them safe.
What makes OTCs potentially unsafe?
In some cases, products that are now OTC were once sold only by prescription. While they no longer require a highly skilled physician to prescribe them, they contain the same ingredients, sometimes in prescription amounts, but are now available as OTCs. The government feels that all OTCs can be safely sold by anyone because the manufacturers of most of these products are required to put adequate labels (warnings, dosage, and usage instructions) on them. The government assumes that everyone will read all of the safety precautions and follow them. One problem with this is that many people do not read the label. It is up to you to read every part of the label, especially when you buy these products in a location where a pharmacist is not available to answer your questions.
Another problem with the label is the size of the print on OTC boxes. They always have the warning placed on the back of the package in small letters. Additionally, advertisements tend to avoid warnings and precautions for the products, highlighting instead the advantages of the products. Thus, it is difficult to get a balanced idea of any risks involved in using a product unless you speak to a pharmacist.
When should you consult your pharmacist?
Your pharmacist is the only health professional specifically trained in non-prescription medications. Pharmacists can provide you with special counseling before you buyOTCs. The pharmacist stands ready to help you in the following self-care areas: (1) whether you need to see a health care provider, (2) whether you actually need the OTCproduct or device, (3) which OTC product or device would be safe and effective for you, (4) the important warnings you should heed before using the product, (5) how to use the product safely, and (6) why an advertised product or device might not be appropriate for you.
Where not to buy OTC products
It is risky to purchase OTCs in any outlet lacking a pharmacist if you have questions about your condition or need help choosing a product. In some cases, non-pharmacists selling OTCs cannot answer even basic questions about their use. Although you can purchases non-prescription items in flea markets and from other deep discounters, manyOTCs may have passed their expiration dates. This is especially dangerous because the strength, and thus the effectiveness, of the expired product is unknown.
Non-prescription (over-the-counter, or OTC) products are items you can buy to provide self-care. They are sold virtually everywhere you go – in convenience stores, beauty shops, gas stations, hotels, airports, and vending machines. The fact that anyone can sell them makes some people think they are completely safe. However, this is not the case. Remember, if you have questions, consult your pharmacist.