Among the various medications used to treat the numerous illnesses today, the commonly used ones are differentiated as over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs. One can easily say that OTC and prescription drugs are different in terms of dosage, cost, insurance cover, formulation, etc. However, there are other differences too that determine how these drugs are consumed.
OTC drugs are those that have been formulated for minor symptoms like headache, nausea, cold, indigestion, and such. These medications are available after receiving approval from the FDA as being safe and effective. The strength of OTC drugs is such that you do not need to consult with a doctor to be able to take them. The instructions on the OTC drug product label are reasonably sufficient to ensure that the user does not experience any adverse effects or overdoses on the medication.
Prescription drugs though are considered to be stronger in dosage strength and more aggressive treatments. This therapeutic strength can even result in dangerous and life-threatening effects when not used according to the doctor’s prescription instructions. Prescription medications are essential to treating major illnesses in order to recover.
Top differences between OTC and prescription drugs
- Over-the-counter medications are generally available for cheap. If they are expensive, it is likely that the OTCs were previously prescription drugs.
- It is possible to easily access OTC medications as the prescription is not needed. Any pharmacy online or retail stores are likely to stock the OTC medications and you can even share them with friends or family if required as they are not for any specific patients. With prescription drugs, the medication is prescribed by the healthcare provider and available only through a licensed pharmacist. Only the person prescribed to take the medication should do so without sharing it with anyone, even if the other person has similar symptoms.
- An OTC drug does not have a patent. Any drug company can make the same medication at the same time as the formulas are not secret. Prescription medications are often the patents of the drug companies that first launch them. These patents can be held for a number of years and they can be very expensive as the holding company decides on the price of the drug.
- Over-the-counter formulations of any kind are usually purchased without any insurance cover but it is possible to buy certain prescription medications with insurance to help reduce the cost. The insurance cover depends on the policy and also the condition for which the drug is used. Full market price is paid for OTC drugs but only the partial drug cost may be paid for prescription drugs when there is insurance cover.
If there is any concern regarding taking an OTC or prescription medication, always consult with the healthcare provider.