Over-the-Counter Drug Safety

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It is estimated that more than 200,000 people across the country are treated at the hospital every year due to the misuse of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. These emergencies could be prevented with a few simple but important safety tips. Chances are that you have at least one type of OTC medication in your home right now. It is vital that you understand how to properly use these drugs, so you can protect yourself from any dangers due to incorrect use. 

Drug SafetyThe FDA’s Role in OTC Drugs

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a federal organization whose role  is to ensure the safety of various food and drugs for sale on the market. The FDA determines the safety of each OTC drug on the market, and sets standards that pharmaceutical companies must follow to ensure the drugs’ safety. This organization is also responsible for issuing OTC warnings and educating the public.

Read the Label

One requirement that the FDA has mandated all drug manufacturing companies to do is to place a Drug Facts section on the medications’ packaging. While the specific detail for each OTC drug is different, the label does contain the same type of information. This makes it easier for consumers to compare different OTC medication to determine which one is right for them. Here is a look at the basic section found on the Drug Facts section.

  • Ingredients. The first item you are likely to see in this section is a listing of all the different ingredients in the medication and the purpose for each ingredient. While you may not be a doctor and know what all these ingredients are, it is important that you read through this list to educate yourself. 
  • Uses for the OTC Drug. People take OTC drugs for a wide array of reasons, including pain, fever, cough, migraines, athlete’s foot, and diarrhea. It is important that you use the right type of medication for the specific condition(s) you have. The Drug Facts label will include a section that lists all of the ailments that that particular drug is designed to help. Read over this list to make sure you are selecting the right medication to take.  
  • Warnings. The warning section of the Drug Facts label is one of the most important sections, and should be read very carefully. This section will list any allergy warning you should be aware of. It will also list any type of medication or medical conditions that may adversely interfere with that drug. If you are taking any medications on the warning label or have any of the medical conditions listed, you should not take the OTC drug. This section will also detail signs to look for that show you may be having a dangerous reaction to the OTC drug, and what to do if you have a reaction. 
  • Directions. Another very important part of the label is the directions for how to use the OTC medication. It will tell you exactly how much and how often you should take the medicine based on your age and weight. It is vital that you follow these directions exactly as they are printed on the label. Otherwise, you risk a potential overdose.  

Specific Safety Tips

  • Keep all medications, including OTC drugs, out of the reach of children, and medication should only be administered to children by an adult.
  • Always follow the directions exactly as they are printed on your OTC drug label.
  • Never take more medication than is directed on the medication’s label.
  • Stop any medication immediately if you are experiencing any of the side effects listed on the Drug Fact label.
  • If you currently have a medical condition that is being treated by a doctor, you should always check with your doctor before taking any new medication. 

The first step to drug safety is to educate yourself about each OTC drug you are taking or plan to purchase. It is very important that you read through the Drug Fact label provided by the pharmaceutical wholesale provider each time you use the medication. Do not be afraid to contact your doctor or speak to the pharmacist at the drug store if you have any questions about any OTC drug.

Author Bio

Written by Jason Knight. Jason lives with his family in Oregon.

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