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Over-the-Counter Drugs (OTC)

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Updated August 28, 2008

Definition:

Over-the counter (OTC) drugs can be purchased without a prescription and are most often used to treat symptoms of common illnesses that may not require the direct supervision of a physician. An OTC medication may be sold both as brand name drug or as a generic drug.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates over-the-counter drugs to assure that they are safe and effective for use by the general public.

Also Known As: nonprescription drug, nonprescription medication
Examples:
Loratadine is an antihistamine used to treat the symptoms of hay fever and itching of the skin caused by hives. Loratadine tablets are available as a brand name drug (Claritin) and as a generic. Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory drug used to reduce inflammation and ease mild to moderate pain. Ibuprofen is often used to treat arthritis. Ibuprofen is available in numerous generic preparations and several brand name preparations, including Advil and Motrin.

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