NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Moving Prescription Drugs To Over The Counter Sale

August 8, 2000

The Food and Drug Administration is reconsidering -- for the first time in nearly 30 years -- how and when it moves drugs from prescription to over-the-counter sales.

Many analysts contend that as Americans have begun to take a more active interest in their own health, the logic behind restrictions on certain drugs is melting away. Indeed, there are a number of arguments to support increasing the availability to the public of some medications -- not to mention the benefits of a small reduction in the powers of the Nanny State.

  • Allowing certain drugs to be sold over-the-counter will probably reduce their prices, experts predict.
  • This would be a great boon for low-income families and budget-conscious seniors.
  • Increased availability might necessitate fewer visits to the doctor, since well over half of all visits result in prescriptions being written.
  • Surveys show that people take written directions seriously when using over-the-counter drugs -- undercutting objections that purchasers will over-prescribe for themselves.

Home tests for ills such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, soon to be made available, will only increase the demand for individuals to be able to follow up self-diagnosis with self-treatment.

Source: Ryan H. Sager, "Over-the-Counter Is the Right Prescription," Wall Street Journal, August 8, 2000.


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