OTC drug trend and its social impact – A Review

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Shubham Nath


Over-the-counter medicines (OTC), also known as nonprescriptionmedicines (NPMs), are medicines that canbe obtained or supplied without a prescription from registeredmedical practitioners. OTC medicines are frequentlyused to manage various minor ailments. Theyare conveniently obtained from community pharmaciesand other retail outlets such as petrol stations, supermarketsand are now increasingly purchased on the internet1. OTC medicines promote self-care, benefiting bothindividuals and the health care systems by reducing theburden on other health care settings2.

Self-medication also has advantages for healthcaresystems as it facilitates better use of clinical skills ofpharmacists, increases access to medication and maycontribute to reducing prescribed drug costs associatedwith publicly funded health programmes.3 However,increasing availability of non-prescription medicinesmay encourage patients to believe that there is a drugtreatment for every ailment. Furthermore, the use ofsuch products may delay/mask the diagnosis of seriousillness, with increased risks of interactions and adversereactions and of self-treatment being undertaken whenmedical aid should have been sought.4 There is also thepotential for misuse and abuse of such products.5

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