The Risk of Over-the-Counter Medicines

By Jeff Baron RPh, MBA, manager of Pharmacy Services

shutterstock_3234159In the United States, there are over 750 over-the-counter (OTC) drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the number continues to grow rapidly. These products are easily accessible and do not require a prescription to purchase, but their side effects have proven to be severe and, in some cases, fatal. It is critical that you understand the purpose, dosage and possible side effects of any OTC medication you take.

Understanding the Medicine

OTC medicines, which can be purchased without a prescription from a doctor, help treat or prevent health problems, such as headaches, allergies, body aches, cold and flu, heartburn, insomnia and nausea. Although these medications treat symptoms, they also cause many side effects, including dizziness, dehydration, organ failure, allergic reaction, addiction and depression. Despite the fact that

It is important to read the OTC drug product’s label so that you can use the medication safely and effectively. The medicine label gives the purpose of the medicine, identifies who should or should not take it, and gives instructions for its proper use. Whether an OTC medicine is for pain or simply a common cold, it can be dangerous if it is not properly used.

Using Over-the-Counter Medications

Here are some additional tips for using OTC medicines:

  • shutterstock_3212970Try to limit how often you use OTC medicines. Use them only if you really need them.
  • Always ask your doctor before taking any kind of medication even if it’s an OTC drug.
  • Make sure you carefully read the drug facts label on the medication.
  • If you don’t understand something about the medicine, always ask your doctor or pharmacist before taking it.
  • When giving medicine to children, make sure you read the label so they get the right dose.
  • Never stir medicine into your food or take capsules apart unless your doctor says it’s okay. This can change the way the medicine works at any time.
  • Finally, never take any medicine with an alcoholic drink because the combination can cause serious side effects.

Practicing Safe Distribution

shutterstock_56850355Crozer-Keystone Health System takes pride in teaching its employees and patients the risks of OTC medicines. We have several regulations that all employees and patients follow in all pharmacies within the health system. These regulations are very similar to those practiced in retail stores.

OTC medicines can be very addictive, so it’s important to follow the proper safety measures to reduce the risk of future health problems. A lot of people don’t realize that OTC medicines are just as dangerous as prescription medicines if someone is not careful.

It is important that every pharmacy take proper precautions against potential medication abuse. Purchasing some often-abused OTC medications requires buyers to show a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, and a logbook must be signed to keep track of medication records.

For more information about Crozer-Keystone Health System, please call 1-800-CKHS-KEY or visit

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