Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications
Medically reviewed on May 31, 2021 by L. Anderson, PharmD.
In the U.S., there are more than 80 classes of over-the-counter (OTC) medications, ranging from acne medicines to weight loss products.
OTC drugs are medications that are safe and effective for use by the general public without seeking treatment by a health professional. Popular examples include pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), cough suppressants such as dextromethorphan (Robitussin) and antihistamines like loratadine (Claritin 24H). These drugs are usually located on shelves in pharmacies, grocery stores, and even in gas stations. OTC medicines treat a variety symptoms due to illness including pain, coughs and colds, diarrhea, heartburn, constipation, acne, and others.
Search the OTC Drug Database
Popular OTC Related Searches
- Cepacol Antibacterial
- Childrens Dimetapp
- Lotrimin AF
- Maalox Antacid
- Motrin IB
- Tagamet HB
More information about OTC products
What is an Rx-to-OTC switch?
Many OTC drugs have undergone a prescription to over-the-counter switch -- also known as “Rx-to-OTC switch” -- meaning they were previously available only with a prescription but now can be bought as a nonprescription product. For example, proton-pump inhibitors like esomeprazole (Nexium 24HR) and stomach acid blockers like famotidine (Pepcid AC), both used for heartburn, are examples of products that have made the Rx-to-OTC switch. The emergency contraceptive pill (“the morning-after pill”) known as Plan B One Step is now available OTC without age restriction and can be found on the shelves in many pharmacies in the U.S.
Are some drugs kept behind the pharmacy counter?
A more restricted class of OTC drugs also exists. These products, while considered OTC, are kept behind the pharmacy counter and are dispensed by a pharmacist. Some products, such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), which is subject to abuse, may require proper identification and a signature. Naloxone is a life-saving drug that can reverse sedation and depressed breathing in an opioid-overdose. In all states, pharmacists are now allowed to dispense naloxone (Narcan Nasal, Narcan) to the public based on a standing prescription order or other rules specific to their state.
Does the FDA review over-the-counter (OTC) drugs?
The review of OTC medications is primarily handled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Division of Drug Information (CDER), the Office of Drug Evaluation, and the Nonprescription Drug Advisory Committee. These teams evaluate and review OTC ingredients and labels. An OTC drug monograph is established for each class of product. The monograph contains acceptable ingredients, doses, formulations, and labeling. New products that conform to an existing OTC drug monograph may be marketed without further FDA review. Those OTC products that do not conform to an OTC monograph must undergo approval through the FDA’s New Drug Approval System.
Are over-the-counter (OTC) drugs safe to use?
Over-the-counter medications can still carry a risk, even though they do not require a prescription. There is the possibility of side effects, drug interactions, or harm due to excessive doses. Consumers should read the “Drug Facts” label that is found on all OTC products. All patients should consult with their doctor, pharmacist or other health care provider if they have additional questions concerning OTC drug use. Pregnant women should speak with their doctor before taking any medication, vitamin, or herbal supplement, even if it's an OTC product.
A-Z Index of OTC Medications
- A 50% ISOPROPYL Rubbing Alcohol → Antigas Antiflatulent ultra...
- Antiperspirant for Hands Feet... → Aypanal
- BAC-D Foaming Antibacterial... → Broncochem expectorant II
- Broncochem maximum cough → Byotrol Antibacterial Foaming...
- C Lax Laxative → Cocoa butter, phenylephrine...
- Coconut lime scented hand... → CVS Merthiolate
- CVS Motion Sickness Fast... → Cyclease Menopause
- S.T.37 → ShopRite Gas Relief
- ShopRite Sleep-Aid → Sugar free original swiss...
- Sume Apothecary Alcohol Free... → Sysco Reliance
- 0.13% Benzalkonium Chloride... → 0.13% Benzalkonium Chloride...
- 1.8oz Armstrong Hand... → 1st medxpatch with lidocaine 4%
- 24 Hour Allergy Relief nasal → 28 Mile Fools Gin Hand...
- 3 Pack Assured Instant Hand... → 3M DuraPrep Surgical
- 4Jointz → 4Jointz
- 5% Minoxidil Topical Solution → 50% Isopropyl Alcohol
- 62% Ethyl Alcohol Antiseptic... → 62% Ethyl Alcohol Antiseptic...
- 7 day vaginal → 75% Ethyl Alcohol...
- 8HR Arthritis Pain Relief → 8HR Arthritis Pain Relief
- 999 cold remedy → 999 itch relief