The Difference Between Prescription and Over the Counter Medication

Prescription drugs are:

  • Prescribed by a doctor or Nurse Practitioner
  • Bought at a pharmacy and distributed to you by a pharmacy
  • Prescribed for and intended to be used by one person, it is dangerous and in some cases illegal to allow another person to use prescriptions not prescribed to them.
  • Regulated by FDA through the New Drug Application (NDA) process. This is the formal step a drug sponsor takes to ask that the FDA consider approving a new drug for marketing in the United States. An NDA includes all animal and human data and analyses of the data, as well as information about how the drug behaves in the body and how it is manufactured. For more information on the NDA process, please see “The FDA’s Drug Review Process: Ensuring Drugs Are Safe and Effective.”

OTC drugs are:

  • Drugs that do NOT require a doctor’s prescription, and can be purchased in drug stores, conveniences stores and grocery stores off the shelf
  • Regulated by FDA through OTC Drug monographs. OTC drug monographs are a kind of “recipe book” covering acceptable ingredients, doses, formulations, and labeling. Monographs will continually be updated adding additional ingredients and labeling as needed. Products conforming to a monograph may be marketed without further FDA clearance, while those that do not, must undergo separate review and approval through the “New Drug Approval System.”
  • Examples would be ibuprofen, naproxen, and Loratadine.

OTC Benefit Solutions by Fieldtex Products offers OTC medications as well as non-medication personal health items to HMO plan members. The goal of providing these items is to help to maintain health and wellness. Since it has been proven that it is cheaper over the longterm to keep someone healthy than it is to treat sickness and injuries, the programs aims to offer members basic items that they are likely already using to help them stay healthy.

Prescription vs. Over-the-Counter Medication
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