over the counter medications

over the counter medications

1. drugs that can be purchased by a lay person without a prescription. When obtaining the drug history, it is important to ascertain if a patient is taking such medications. Some patients do not consider them significant and do not report them because they do not require a prescription. Over the counter medications are chemically active agents that may interact with prescribed drugs.
2. in Canada, a subgroup of nonprescription drugs available only in pharmacies.

Over the counter drugs have the potential for initiating drug-drug interactions with prescription drugs and thereby enhancing or inhibiting their desired effect. Additionally, they often contain substances that can aggravate an existing illness. Although everyone should be cautioned to read the labels of medicines before taking them, many people do not know that there are alternative remedies that can be substituted for those containing potentially dangerous ingredients.

Sugar in OTC drugs can upset the blood sugar levels of persons who are diabetic, increase the caloric intake of persons trying to lose weight, and promote dental caries. Throat lozenges, cough remedies, laxatives, and antacids are most likely to contain relatively high amounts of sugar.

Sodium intake is especially important for patients who have hypertension, heart disease, premenstrual syndrome, or other disorders associated with fluid retention. Cold products, analgesic powders, antacids, and laxatives frequently contain amounts of sodium that are prohibitive for the person who is trying to avoid this substance.

Potassium is another electrolyte that can cause problems if taken in excessive amounts. For patients taking a potassium-sparing diuretic, or those with renal disease in which potassium is not excreted in normal amounts by the kidney, an extra amount of potassium taken in non-prescription drugs can produce hyperkalemia. Sources of potassium include salt substitutes, which are often almost pure potassium chloride, laxatives, and sleep aids containing potassium bromide and potassium salicylate.

Caffeine is often a major ingredient in analgesics, products that are taken to manage menstrual pain, in cold remedies, and in products to induce wakefulness. Increased amounts of caffeine can be harmful to persons with peptic ulcer or cardiac disease, those who are under a great deal of stress, and persons who are especially sensitive to caffeine. These persons, as well as patients on long-term theophylline or aminophylline therapy, can experience elevated blood pressure, tachycardia, and other symptoms associated with caffeine overdose.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.
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