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Prescription drugs could become OTC under FDA plans

Published on 12/03/12 at 09:49am
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The FDA is considering new plans to make drugs for chronic conditions available over-the-counter.

These drugs could include medicines for diabetes, COPD, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, according to Janet Woodcock, head of the FDA’s drug’s centre. 

The US regulator is hoping that this process will ensure that patients take their drugs as needed, while still understanding safety issues.

Some medical experts in the US say the unwillingness of people to take certain medications as prescribed, has undermined effective treatment of conditions, including high blood pressure. 

The FDA said that about a third of those with high blood pressure stop taking their medication, which can adversely affect their health.

It believes that if people with long-term conditions are given more choice over their treatments, adherence to medicines should increase. 

OTC drugs are usually less potent than prescriptions medicines and treat short-term conditions like mild pain, the common cold and allergies.

But making prescription only drugs available OTC does have its problems. This includes communication about adverse events – which are typically higher in prescription medicines – which would usually be spoken about with a doctor.

The FDA said it has met with pharma firms to discuss ways to help people understand drug risks when they go to a pharmacy, such as using self-serve kiosks, touchscreen pads or interactive videos.

The US regulator has been gathering public opinion on the plans this month, and will have a meeting on the proposals as the end of March. 

This would represent a major policy shift in the US if the plans get the go ahead, but the FDA emphasised that this that its plans were at an early stage.

Ben Adams 

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