Monday, October 15, 2007

Some Drugs May Become Available Without a Prescription

news you may not knowIs "Behind" A Good Idea?

Over-the-counter, behind-the-counter, or by prescription only? Good question. And, it's the question currently being debated at the Food and Drug Administration.

The issue involves whether certain medications, currently available only by prescription, should become available after consultation with a pharmacist. This method, known as behind-the-counter, is a class in between the current division of freely available over-the-counter medications and those available only by prescription. As always, when it comes to health care, a big argument about the proposal is underway.

Proponents say the action would help many, especially those without health insurance, obtain needed medications without first having to see a physician. The idea of involving the pharmacist is to ensure proper selection and safety, and to provide adequate patient education. Certainly seems reasonable, and similar systems are currently being utilized in Britain, Canada, Australia, and several European nations.

Opponents, particularly those companies manufacturing and marketing over-the-counter medications, say the current system works great and best serves the needs of the consumer. Not a surprising statement but, certainly, one to be viewed with at least a modicum of skepticism.

The FDA will hold a public meeting on November 14th to gather comments from the public.

Is the behind-the-counter model the best way to go? Well, on the surface, it certainly seems to hold the potential to increase access and reduce costs. Those are good things, right?

To read more about the proposal, see this from Reuters. To read more about the public meeting, see this (PDF) from the FDA.


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