Over-The-Counter (OTC) Medicines

Left Chevron
Over-The-Counter Medicines

Basics of Over-The-Counter Medicines

Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines can be purchased without a prescription from a doctor. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decides whether a medicine can be purchased without a prescription. In this section, learn the main differences between a prescription and OTC medicine, why some OTC products can only be found behind the pharmacy counter, and the reasons that OTC medicines often have both generic and brand names.

Although OTC medicines have a wider margin of safety than prescription medicines, many can still cause harm if used improperly. So be sure to learn more about the information found on OTC medicine Drug Facts labels and how to navigate the pharmacy aisles to find the right medicine for you and your family. You can also find out how to teach children to swallow tablets, when it's not safe to cut, crush, or chew medicines, and how to protect yourself from tampering with OTC medicines.