What is the difference between OTC and Prescription Drugs?

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A drug is used in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of any disease. There are mainly two types of drugs; over-the-counter drugs and prescription drugs. Rx is the symbolic meaning of prescription drugs whereas OTC is used for over-the-counter drugs.

Why prescription drugs are different from OTC drugs?

Prescription drugs are only accessible with a valid prescription from a prescriber. As these drugs are heavily regulated, the patient is required to visit the prescriber (a doctor) along with a diagnosis and monitoring, to make sure that the medicine is safe and effective.

The FDA strictly monitors prescription drugs for safety and side effects. On the other hand, OTC drugs are monitored by FDA, but the process is not as strict as for prescription drugs. Manufacturers need to make drugs according to a particular formula with regard to their strength.

They must also have FDA-approved labeling and FDA-specific dosage to be on the market. OTC drugs can include creams, eye drops, nasal sprays, etc. Even though OTC drugs do not require a prescription, you need to be aware that these drugs do carry a risk.

If you are on prescription medications, OTC drugs can cause drug interactions and other adverse effects. Therefore it is very important to talk to your doctor or pharmacist and take the recommended dosage.

Following are the key differences between prescription drugs and OTC drugs.

Prescription drugs:

  • Only doctors are authorized to provide prescription drugs
  • They can be bought at a pharmacy. Nowadays one can also order prescription online from a legal online pharmacy
  • These are prescribed for one person and are intended to be used by that person only
  • Prescription drugs are regulated by FDA through the New Drug Application (NDA) process

OTC Drugs:

  • These drugs do not require a doctor’s prescription
  • OTC drugs are bough off-the-shelf in stores
  • These drugs are regulated by FDA through OTC Drugs monographs

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