The FDA may have some good news or bad news, depending on how you look at it. They are looking into making certain prescription medications, such as those to reduce cholesterol levels, available over the counter.
This is good news if you want to skip an extra trip to the doctor. However, insurance is less likely to cover the cost of over the counter drugs, meaning that while the medications may be more readily available and accessible, they may no longer be covered by some insurance and prescription drug plans. For plans that continue to cover the cost of the medications, you will more than likely still need to get a prescription from the doctor before they can pay.
U.S. regulators proposed new guidelines this week to make some common pharmaceuticals more accessible to patients, even without a prescription. The Food and Drug Administration is currently looking into how to make sure that patients do not accidentally get the wrong type of medication once the newly proposed guidelines go into effect. They are considering online questionnaires to help people with the decision process. They are also considering including additional information on medication labels so that the consumer is more aware of what they are buying.
Drug makers will also have to conduct studies of their own to ensure that consumers have enough information and guidance available to make informed decisions.
This will not be the first time that a pharmaceutical has gone from prescription to over the counter. Claritin, Prilosec, and Imodium were all once prescription only. Once they became over the counter, the price went down making them more affordable to the people who need them. This is what the U.S. regulators are hoping to see happen again.
In a press announcement, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stated that,
"We’re very mindful of the time and financial cost to patients and the health care system to fill a prescription medicine – particularly one taken repeatedly for chronic conditions. Our hope is that the steps we’re taking to advance this new, more modern framework will contribute to lower costs for our health care system overall and provide greater efficiency and empowerment for consumers by increasing the availability of certain products that would otherwise be available only by prescription.”
There is a several-month process that they still need to go through before a decision is made, but we will keep you posted regarding any updates.
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