Prescription Medicine Vs. Over-the-Counter

If you have ever filled a prescription from the doctor or taken a few ibuprofen when you felt a headache coming on, you recognize that there are differences between the medications that are prescribed and the medications that you can pick up yourself at the store. 

Knowing the differences and being able to navigate prescriptions versus over-the-counter medications can help you be a more informed consumer, which also may also help when it comes to asking your doctor specific questions and making informed decisions about your healthcare. Consider the following differences when you are comparing prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs:

Prescription Medicine Must be Prescribed by a Doctor

If you have even required prescription medication, you know that your doctor must give you a written prescription, or, as healthcare shifts more towards digital technology, your doctor may digitally send the prescription directly to your pharmacy. Either way, in order to receive the medication, your doctor must prescribe it and somehow deliver that prescription to your pharmacy. 

Other licensed medical professionals are also able to write prescriptions. Those who are able to legally write prescriptions include (but are not limited to) nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants.

On the other hand, over-the-counter medications are available for purchase on store shelves and do not require anything written by a medical professional in order to purchase them.

Prescription Medication Can Only be Taken by the Person it is Prescribed To

A prescription is written for the specific person the doctor or another medical professional has examined and determined needs the medication like Renown RX. Therefore, only the person the prescription medication is intended for can take the medication.  

In contrast, over-the-counter medications can be taken by anyone appropriate (you can obviously check in with your doctor about taking over-the-counter medications, and always check with your child’s pediatrician before administering over-the-counter medications to children). For example, you may purchase acetaminophen for your household that gets used by one adult for headaches, another adult for muscle aches, etc. Prescription medication can only be used by the person whose name is on the bottle.

Prescription Medications Must Go Through the “New Drug Application” Process

All prescription medications must go through the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) New Drug Application (NDA) process. The manufacturer of the medication must submit to the FDA all of the data and testing they have done with the proposed new drug, as well as all of the data analysis they have done. Finally, they must include everything in regards to pharmaceutical manufacturing, or how the drug was made. 

Over-the-counter medications are regulated by the FDA in a different way if they are similar to other over-the-counter drugs. If so, they are regulated by OTC drug monographs, which ensure that they have acceptable ingredients, labeling, dosage, etc. New or different over-the-counter medications must follow a different process.

Overall, while there may be some similarities in prescription medications and over-the-counter medications, such as your doctor’s ability to prescribe an over-the-counter medication for perhaps a lower price or perhaps a stronger dosage, there are certainly more major differences, including the necessity of a prescription for a prescription drug, who can take a prescription versus an over-the-counter drug, and finally, the regulation by the FDA.  

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