Over The Counter Drugs vs. Prescription Drugs

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Difference between Over The Counter Drugs and Prescription Drugs

For people who are looking for medication to treat a specific health condition, the choice often boils down to over-the-counter drugs or prescription medications. While there are certain instances wherein only prescription medications would be the right choice, there are just as many instances wherein over-the-counter drugs work just as well. This comparison article shows the main differences between each.


One of the main differences between over the counter drugs and prescription drugs is consumer access. Prescription drugs are only given to patients via a doctor's prescription, and only licensed medical professionals can order them. Over-the-counter drugs are a lot easier to come by in comparison, and they are often even available from locations other than pharmacies. This is because prescription drugs are intended only for specific patients, and in fact it is illegal to share them with other people under any circumstances. Conversely, over-the-counter drugs can be given freely to anyone including friends and family members that are suffering from the same illness or health condition. It is important to keep in mind however that dosage and application instructions should be followed to the letter when taking over-the-counter drugs.


One other key difference between prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs is their formulation. It is important to note that prescription drugs are formulated in does that conform to an aggressive treatment procedure prescribed by a doctor. There is in fact a certain amount of risk involved in taking prescription drugs, since aside from the dosage considerations, there are also numerous possible interactions with other medications to consider. As for over-the-counter drugs, they are usually sold in doses that are deemed both safe and effective according to guidelines set by the FDA or Food and Drug Administration. In fact, over-the-counter drugs are a lot safer than prescription drugs in that they can generally be combined with other over-the-counter drugs without worrying about potential risk of overdose or adverse reaction.


Cost is another key difference between both types of medications. One factor that dictates the prices of prescription drugs is the patents held by certain formulations, which may be enforced for several years. What this means is that drug companies basically have the option to price prescription drugs as they see fit, although pricing is of course subject to approval by government regulatory bodies. Over-the-counter drugs on the other hand are usually manufactured with ingredients that have since been made public, making it possible for any manufacturer to produce them. This result is more competitive prices for over-the-counter drugs in general.


Over-The-Counter Drugs

  • Often available from locations other than pharmacies
  • Can be given freely to anyone
  • Are priced more competitively

Prescription Drugs

  • Are only given to patients via a doctor's prescription
  • Can only be ordered by licensed medical professionals
  • Intended only for specific patients
  • Are usually priced according to the drug companies’ discretion

Which class of meds is cheaper?
  • Over The Counter Drugs
  • Prescription Drugs

comments 1 Comments

  • Diane Blais . 3+ yrs. ago

Why do you have to take otc. heartburn meds only for 14 days, and you can take presription Nexium every day?

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