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Nonprescription Medicines and Products - Overview

A nonprescription medicine—sometimes called an over-the-counter, or OTC, medicine—is any drug that you can buy without a doctor's prescription. But don't assume that all nonprescription drugs are safe for you. These drugs can interact with other medicines and can sometimes cause serious health problems. And if you take more than the normal or recommended amount, overdose may occur.

Some medicines should only be used by adults or older children. Be sure to read the package instructions carefully, or ask a pharmacist before giving any product to an infant or young child. If you are pregnant, always check with your pharmacist or doctor before using any nonprescription medicine, to make sure it is safe to use during pregnancy.

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Q: Are generic versions of drugs really just as good (and safe) as their brand-name counterparts? A: Yes, for many reasons. Today, almost half of all prescriptions in the United States are filled with generic drugs. They are less expensive and often require a lower co-pay if you have insurance, which could mean big cost savings for you. Generic drug manufacturers don’t have the initial investment costs associated with development of a new drug. Original manufacturers are given a patent...

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Carefully read the label of any nonprescription drug you use, especially if you also take prescription medicines for other health problems. Ask your pharmacist for help in finding a nonprescription drug best suited to your needs. Use these tips on how to avoid common medicine problems.

Some common nonprescription medicines include:

  • Antacids and acid reducers.
  • Bulking agents, laxatives, and stool softeners.
  • Antidiarrheals.
  • Cold and allergy remedies.
  • Pain relievers.

These drugs can be very helpful when used properly but can cause serious problems if used incorrectly. The following tips will help you use common nonprescription drugs wisely and safely. In some cases, you may find that you don't need to take them at all.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 06, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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