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Over-The-Counter Medication: A Trending Practice, Its Benefits and Risks Involved

Written byRohini Mankar

Last updated on : 16 May, 2024

Read time : 5 min

What do you mean by Over-the-counter(OTC) medication/medicine?

According to the FDA, OTC medicines are medicines that can are accessible without any prescription. They are safe to use and effective if one follows the direction given on the label or as directed by their physician. Over-the-counter medication is a way of self-medication. In recent times self-medication has become popular around the world. According to some studies, Globally, self-medication ranges from 11.2 to 93.7 per cent. Over-the-counter medications help people treat mild conditions at home without wasting time and money.

However, healthcare providers recommend not self-treating any severe illness at home using OTC.  The most common ailments these medicines treat are the common cold, pain, heartburn and allergies. Here in this article, we will see the benefits and risks of OTC medication.

Types of Over-the-counter medicines

People practise various methods to avail of counter medicines. Here are some ways:

1. Ask for a pharmacist’s advice:

Most of the time, people suffering from minor health problems buy medicine after speaking to a pharmacist. Since the pharmacist is qualified personnel, people trust his advice on health and medicines. For example, people enquire about medicated creams that would reduce skin irritation.

2. Pharmacy medicines:

There are some medicines that people buy without consulting the pharmacist, such as medicine for diarrhoea, cold or cough syrup, and paracetamol.

3. Medicine available at supermarkets:

Some medications like pain relief gels and sprays, ayurvedic medicines and medicinal juices, antacids and multivitamins are available at supermarkets.

What are the benefits of OTC medication?

The benefits of OTC medicines include easy and quick access to medication. OTC are available at any pharmacy and most supermarkets 24×7.

1. Medicines are easily accessible:

One of the benefits of OTC medicines is that medicines can be purchased and stored in a warehouse for future use. For example, many households keep a first aid kit to have medicines handy while travelling long distances.

It is an easily accessible alternative to treat common ailments. According to some studies, 81 per cent of adults opt for OTC medicines as a first remedy to treat these minor illnesses.

OTC saves the effort that one has to take to go out there and purchase medicines. It helps to provide the proper medication at the right place at the right time.

A person can choose to buy OTC medicines from the store that is situated nearest to their residence. Thus improving accessibility and saving time and effort.

Improved accessibility also means people will have healthier and more productive lives at a lower cost.

2. Save money:

Consumers believe that OTC medicines are the most affordable option as it helps in cost-cutting when it comes to healthcare.

As per some research, in the southeast Asian regions, 65 to 85 percent of healthcare depends on self-medication and OTC medication.

Since OTC medicines are readily available, it reduces the number of visits to the doctor or healthcare provider. Thus, OTC saves money.

OTC treats minor ailments like colds, coughs, headaches or fevers.  As a result, it prevents absenteeism from work, saving wage cuts.

3. Saves time:

OTC medication reduces the time required to treat some deadly infectious and parasitic diseases where access to healthcare services is poor.

Whether a developed nation or a developing nation, people are forced to travel a long distance to seek advice for managing their chronic health conditions.

If over-the-counter drugs were unavailable, the frequency of visits to the doctor for minor ailments would likely rise. OTC medications eliminate the need for many physician visits, including some that clinicians consider unnecessary. Thus OTC medications save time.

Risks of OTC medicines

OTC medicine has its benefits and considerable risks:

  • Patient safety in OTC medication is critical. OTC can interfere with other drugs making them less effective or may cause adverse reactions. 
  • OTC medicine can interact with foods and drinks, leading to health issues like increased nausea, heartburn, and headaches.
  • For example, avoiding some over-the-counter pain medicines is better if you have ailments related to stomach, kidney, liver or heart problems.
  • Certain medications can cause allergic reactions in some patients.
  • There are a lot of medicines that you should avoid taking while you’re pregnant. If you are pregnant, you must discuss your plans to take any medication with your healthcare professional.
  • When administering medication to children, take extra precautions. Always check that you are giving an appropriate dose to your child. If you are administering liquid medicine to your child, you should not use a spoon intended for food preparation in the kitchen. Instead, you should make use of a measuring spoon that is labelled with teaspoons.


Numerous pieces of evidence have revealed that people use OTC medicines. The primary reasons behind using OTC medication are 

  1. Due to experience, individuals know how to self-treat a specific ailment.
  2. They’ve decided that their illness isn’t bad enough to need a trip to the doctor.
  3. By treating themselves with an over-the-counter (OTC) drug, individuals can save time and money.

Instead of waiting in a queue at a pharmacy counter to get medicines, You can now purchase the medication from our online pharmacy Truemeds app and website. You can also buy generic or branded medicine at discounted prices (save up to 72% on total purchase) and get it free delivered to your doorstep across India.

Disclaimer – This content, including advice and medications, provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for a qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your doctor for more details.

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Our healthcare experts have carefully reviewed and compiled the information presented here to ensure accuracy and trustworthiness. It is important to note that this information serves as a general overview of the topic and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, prevent, or cure any health problem. This page does not establish a doctor-patient relationship, nor does it replace the advice or consultation of a registered medical practitioner. We recommend seeking guidance from your registered medical practitioner for any questions or concerns regarding your medical condition.


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