5 Differences between Over-the-counter and Prescription medications you should know

Drugs or medications are chemical substances isolated from natural sources or synthesized in the lab and which have been shown to be useful in the treatment of one medical condition or the other. Many years of research and clinical trials have enabled medical professionals to design safe and suitable regimen (how you’re supposed to take any drug) of any drug for different types of conditions and age groups. And over time, drugs have come to be grouped under over-the-counter or prescription medications. It is very important to know a few key differences between medications in these two groups for your safety:

Over-the-counter Medications

  1. Over-the-counter medications are drugs that you can buy without a doctor’s prescription because they have been shown to be safe and effective in the absence of a doctor’s supervision. Some examples include analgesics like ibuprofen, paracetamol; antihistamines for treating conditions like itching from allergic skin reaction (e.g. loratadine); cough medicines containing chlorpheniramine; and medicines for treating fever like aspirin
  2. Over-the-counter medications are well-tolerated by most people, hence the chance of adverse drug reaction is very slim for them.
  3. But before taking any of these over-the-counter medications, make sure you check their expiry date, ingredients, and follow the instructions and warning printed on the bottle, pack or pamphlets. Also, take special precautions when giving these medications to children and elderly people.

Prescription Medications

  1. Prescription medications, on the other hand, are drugs that require a doctor’s prescription before you can buy and use them. They are only sold in licensed pharmacies, and you must present a prescription from a certified, licensed medical doctor before the pharmacist can dispense them to you. Examples of prescription meds include opioid analgesics like morphine; antipsychotics like haloperidol and olanzapine used treating conditions such as psychosis, mania, and schizophrenia
  2. Prescription medications have a potential for abuse due to their highly addictive property than over-the-counter medications; they also have a lot of side effects which manifest in many people taking them, unlike over-the-counter medications. Hence, it is advisable to take them as instructed by the doctor (avoid overdosing yourself). In addition, you will be required to revisit your doctor if you exhaust a prescription for a review to determine if another round of prescription will be necessary.

Whether it is an over-the-counter or prescription medication, never take more than printed or instructed dose at any point in time. For pregnant women, always consult your doctor before you take any medications, even if they are over-the-counter like supplements and paracetamol. Do not hesitate to stop any drugs you’re taking and report to your doctor if you react to such drugs, and don’t forget to remind another doctor of this reaction if he or she wants to prescribe same drugs for you in a different setting.

For more advice and help, feel free to ask a Doctor via The Reliance Care App.

Back to Top