Over-the-counter drugs, also known as OTC drugs, from the English expression Over The Counterare drugs whose dispensing is not subject to mandatory medical prescription. The most common are analgesics and anti-inflammatories. Anti-catarrhals, antitussives, laxatives, antidiarrheals, and other ailments that by their nature are considered minor or frequently due to temporary causes are also very common.

Without prescription, but with risks

Even if they are medicines that can be bought without a prescription and that are intended for ailments considered minor, even if they are medicines of proven high safety, they are not free of side effects or health riskssometimes very serious. Therefore, they must be used correctly and only when necessary.

For example, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are the most common group of drugs among non-prescription drugs. Some well-known and commonly used drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen belong to this group.

One of the side effects shared by almost all NSAIDsalthough with different intensity, is the increased risk of gastroduodenal ulcers. Another well-known risk of NSAIDs is drug interaction. anticoagulants. Prolonged or abusive use of NSAIDs can increase blood pressurewhich is why they are also not recommended in people with chronic hypertension, especially ibuprofen, in patients with a family history of cardiovascular accidents or in patients suffering from other chronic inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis, who require long-term anti-inflammatory treatment .

In addition, some drug ingredients, and not just the active ingredient, can pose risks to the patient. A very typical example would be medicines that contain sugars, contraindicated in diabetic patients.

To decide when it is appropriate to use an over-the-counter medicine, therefore, the relationship between benefits, adverse effects and patient status. This assessment during the sale of a drug without a prescription is essential to minimize its risks, and is one of the most outstanding functions of the community pharmacist during dispensing.

general tips

The dispensing of medicines without a prescription is often carried out without the intervention of the pharmacist or any other qualified health professional, especially in countries where mechanized dispensing or dispensing outside health establishments is legal.

In these cases, the patient himself has the responsibility to decide when an over-the-counter medication is appropriate and how to take it correctly. To inform the population, health authorities and health professionals usually carry out health education campaigns with patients.

Some very common tips1:

  • Always follow the package insert instructions or printed on the packaging. Especially the indications, dosage, contraindications and advice to the patient.
  • Never take a drug that is subject to medical prescription without consulting a doctor or pharmacist.
  • In case of any doubt, consultation with a health professionalespecially if you suffer from any illnesschronic or acute, some allergy or if you are drinking other treatmentswhether they are medicines or any other type of medicinal preparation.
  • Check the expiration date.
  • If the symptoms do not improve, increase, or become persistent, see a doctor.
  • If you have any chronic medical conditions, consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medication.
  • Naps pregnantthink you may be or are breastfeeding, always consult a health professional.
  • If you have people under your care and you have any doubts, always consult your doctor.
  • Some medications can affect concentration and abilities to ride or perform dangerous work.
  • Do not consume alcohol or other substances that may affect the effect of medications.