Daughter helping her mother with medications

By: Mr. Katz

How many medications do you take on a daily basis? Not just the ones prescribed by your doctor(s), but also the Over the Counter medications you take as well. You know the ones, the vitamins, supplements, drops, ointments, lotions, and the like. Do you know what they are doing to your prescriptions? Are they causing more adverse effects or are they potentially making the prescriptions ineffective?

Over the Counter medicines help people feel better, get back to work, and be more productive. They are staples in the medicine cabinets. In fact, there are more than 100,000 Over the Counter products available today. While you can buy them without a doctor’s prescription, it is important to remember that Over the Counter medications are medications and must be used with caution. Consider this: less than 30 years ago, more than 700 of today’s Over the Counter medicines were available only with a doctor’s prescription! According to research from Roper Starch Worldwide, 77% of Americans take Over the Counter products to treat common ailments.

Carefully reading and following the Over the Counter Drug Facts label is more important than ever before. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) developed the label to make sure users have all the information necessary to choose the right medicine and to use it safely and effectively. The label explains:

  • what is in the medicine;
  • how, when, and when not to take or use the medicine;
  • how to store it
  • when to talk to a healthcare professional.

Millions of us rely on Over the Counter medications every day. Despite their convenience, it is important to remember these are real medicines. While each Drug Facts label contains a great deal of information specific to a particular medication, some general guidelines can help you safely take OVER THE Counters or give them to your family.

  1. Pay close attention to the active ingredient. This is especially important if you are taking more than one prescription or Over the Counter medicine, since many drugs contain the same active ingredients. Taking too much of an active ingredient can be dangerous.
  2. Choose those products that treat only the symptoms you actually have.
  3. Never take more of an Over the Counter medicine, or for longer than directed on the label, unless a doctor specifically tells you to do so.
  4. Read and follow the “warnings” and “directions” sections carefully.
  5. Do a brown bag test for your doctor.
  6. Ask questions of your doctor or pharmacist.