Medicines that do not require a prescription and are used to treat common diseases are known as over-the-counter drugs or non-prescription drugs. OTC drugs are often the first and standard line of treatment for patients as they prevent and treat various conditions such as headache, fever, pain, acid reflux, etc.
However, with such advantages, there is always risk associated with using the OTC drugs, which involve:
- Inaccurate self-diagnosis
- Excessive dosage
- Drug interactions and side effects
With very easy accessibility, lack of awareness, and direct-to-patient advertisement, there is an increased risk of potential misuse of OTC medications for recreational purposes. The commonly abused OTC medications include cough medicines, analgesics, antihistamines, antitussives, sleep aids, decongestants, laxatives, sildenafil, and codeine-containing products. Multiple studies reveal that particularly young people are commonly using these to get high. The other driving factor in misuse of OTC may be that it provides the patient autonomy regarding his health. Lack of professional help may also contribute to the overuse of OTC drugs. For example, the patient may take medicine repeatedly for dyspepsia, but dyspepsia might be masking a severe gastrointestinal disease.
Canadian Pharmacy can decrease the misuse of drugs by monitoring OTC medication usage in a specific population and should refuse frequent refills to the same individual. Lack of pharmacist vigilance can lead to prolonged use of such medication by the patient and severely affects his health. They must contact other pharmacies to warn them of the suspicions of a customer who may be abusing a product. Other strategies include preventing supplies by hiding medicines, claiming products are not in stock or supplying only limited amounts. OTC advertisements are often misleading as they focus only on the beneficial effects of drugs with minimum information on contraindications and safety protocols. A direct patient–pharmacist interaction can help inappropriate product selection,
dosage, frequency, and safety. Pharmacies must play clinically patient-oriented roles by providing oral and written medical information, raising awareness through support groups and counseling, and developing patient trust. They can also engage physicians by their consultations, referrals, and by their expert advice.
The common barriers faced by the pharmacies are that the pharmacists are overworked, lack a good workforce and continuous prescription processing workload decreases the ability to be pharmacovigilant. There is a need for alteration in laws regarding medicine distribution and practice of pharmacy to meet the needs of both pharmacy and patients.
Erik Jackson has been a senior editor at Health News Tribune for three years. Fluent in French and proficient in Spanish and Arabic, he focuses on diseases and conditions and the newest trends in medicine.