Why can I buy some medicines over the counter and not others? | Leader (2023)

Why can I buy some medicines over the counter and not others? | Leader (1)
Have you ever wondered why you can buy acetaminophen at the store but not antibiotics?

Have you ever gone to your local store or supermarket and looked at all the medicines you can buy there? It seems like they have it all!

Well, almost everything.

Although shops and supermarkets are allowed to carry everyday medicines like acetaminophen, there is a huge list of other medicines that you can only get at your local pharmacy and some only with a doctor's prescription.

If you've ever wondered why there are different rules for different drugs, you've come to the right place.

We'll look at the different types of drugs and why they need to be sold the way they are.

Why are some medicines only available in pharmacies or on prescription?

The reason there are restrictions on which medications you can buy over the counter and which require a prescription from a doctor is simple: you need to be sure you're taking the right medication for you!

Some medicines can cause side effects or harm you if you use them incorrectly. Therefore, make sure that these medicines are supervised by qualified doctors and pharmacists.

There's also a chance that without a little help from your friendly neighborhood pharmacist, you might not be able to choose the best drug to treat your condition.

Pharmacists and doctors go through years of training to ensure they know all about the different types of medicines available, how they work, what they treat, and if they interact with other medicines.

They have years of expertise swirling around in those brains, so they are in the best position to help you choose the best medicine for your ailment.

Because of this, some medicines require a qualified pharmacist or doctor to ask you a few questions before you can buy them. You need to be sure that this drug is the absolute best choice for you.

Why can I buy some medicines over the counter and not others? | Leader (2)

What Are the Different Types of Drugs?

So now we know why some drugs are available in stores and others are not, and we can take a closer look at the different classifications of drugs. There are four types that we will cover today and they are:

  • Prescription Drugs (POMs)
  • Pharmacy drugs (P)
  • General Distribution License (GSL)
  • Traditional Herbal Registration (THR)

All medicines fall into one of these categories, although they change over time and may be made available in a different category.

For example, a prescription drug may be reclassified as a pharmacy or GSL drug if we become more certain about our knowledge of the drug and how it works.

For example, when we know more about the side effects a drug can cause and how it interacts with other drugs.

What are Prescription Medicines (POMs)?

Prescription Drugs, or POMS, are exactly what you think of—drugs that can only be obtained with a doctor's prescription.

These medicines are usually intended to help treat diseases and conditions that are best monitored by a doctor or other healthcare professional, such as: B. high blood pressure.

How do you know if your medicine requires a prescription? Well, if you look at the box your prescription medication came in, you'll notice a small square with the letters POM on the back.

Some common examples of prescription drugs are antibiotics, antidepressants, and stronger pain relievers.

Why can I buy some medicines over the counter and not others? | Leader (3)

Was sind Pharmacy Medicines (Ps)?

Next we have our Pharmacy Medicines or Ps and you can probably guess where to get these! These are available over the counter at your local pharmacy or from online pharmacies such as Chemist 4 U.

Just like our POM medication, when you look at a box of pharmacy medication you will see a small P on the back of the box so you know it can only be supplied by a qualified pharmacist.

When you see these products in our online store, you will notice a green and white cross on the product image and product page, letting you know you are looking at a pharmacy drug.

So if these drugs need to be delivered by a pharmacist, how can they be sold online?

Well, here at Chemist 4 U we have registered pharmacists who work 24/7, checking all new orders that come in and making sure it's the right product for you.

When you add one of our pharmacy medications to your shopping cart, you will be asked to fill out a short online questionnaire that asks all the questions that every single pharmacist needs to ask before delivering that type of medication.

Our pharmacists will check your answers to these questions and if everything is ok we will proceed with your order, if not we will contact you to explain the reason and offer you a better solution.

Some of the most common medicines in the pharmacy include maximum strength cold and flu remedies, thrush treatments, and motion sickness pills.


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What are General Sales License (GSL) medicines?

Finally, we have our General Sales License Medicines, or GSLs. These are all medicines that you can buy without the supervision of a doctor or pharmacist and usually treat common, everyday ailments like headaches or hay fever.

These are the types of drugs you'll see in stores or supermarkets that don't have a local pharmacist, and you'll notice the small GSL letters on the side of the box telling you to buy them whenever you are like.

Although you can purchase GSL drugs unsupervised, there may still be some limitations on how many you can purchase at one time.

For example, you can only buy one pack of 16 paracetamol tablets at a time for in-store pickup. This is to reduce the chance of someone taking an overdose of this medicine.

Some of the most popular GSL medications are acetaminophen and ibuprofen, hay fever medication, and regular cold and flu medication.

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What is Traditional Herbal Registration (THR)?

Before herbal medicines can be marketed in the UK, they must apply for a Traditional Herbal Registration (THR).

As with our other medicines, you will notice a box with the letter THR on your herbal medicine package, meaning it has legally received its traditional herbal registration.

THR drugs are usually used to treat minor ailments and you don't need the supervision of a doctor or pharmacist to buy them.

They are popular with those who prefer to find natural alternatives for their ailments and have their safety and quality checked by a qualified professional before they are allowed to be marketed.

Some examples of popular THR medications include Kalms, Nytol, and other herbal sleep aids.

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What about everything else you can pick up at the pharmacy?

If you enter the pharmacy or look at the Chemist 4 U website, you will quickly realize that there are not only medicines.

Well here at Chemist 4 U we want to make sure you can come to us with all your health needs so we make sure we stock everything you need to be as healthy as possible.

So yes, we sell medicines, but we also sell first aid supplies, toothbrushes, vitamins, condoms, shampoo and all sorts of other things you need to keep looking your best.

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There we have it, now you know all about different types of medicines and where you can and cannot buy them.

So next time you're at the grocery store or surfing the Chemist 4 U website, why not try to guess which drugs are Ps and which are GSLs?

I bet you will surprise yourself with all your newfound knowledge. Go ahead, get out there and try it!

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Can you tell the difference between P and GSL pain relievers?


Why do some medications work for some and not others? ›

And small differences in genes are the reason a drug works in some people and not in others. These differences also are the reason some people metabolize drugs faster than others--meaning that some individuals might require higher or lower dosages of the same drug to get the same effect--depending on their genes.

Why are some drugs OTC while others are prescription only? ›

If the drug is highly toxic or addictive, the medication status will remain as “prescription-only.” However, if the drug has labels that consumers can understand and adhere to and if patients are capable of properly diagnosing their condition, then the medication may make the switch to OTC.

Why is it so hard to get a prescription filled? ›

There are several reasons why your pharmacist might not be able to fill your prescription. If your prescription is missing key information or hard-to-read, a pharmacy can refuse to fill it. Other reasons why your pharmacy may not have your prescription ready include insurance rejections or drug shortages.

How does the purchase of over-the-counter medicine differ from the purchase of prescription medicine? ›

To obtain these medications, a doctor or other healthcare provider must give you a prescription or send a prescription for you to the pharmacy. Prescription drugs should be taken only by the patient they are prescribed for. Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are medications available without a prescription.

Why do some medicines have medication guides and others don t? ›

Why do some medicines have Medication Guides? FDA requires that Medication Guides be issued with certain prescribed drugs and biological products when the Agency determines that: certain information is necessary to prevent serious adverse effects.

Why am I sensitive to all medications? ›

A number of factors influence your chances of having an adverse reaction to a medication. These include: body size, genetics, body chemistry or the presence of an underlying disease. Also, having an allergy to one drug predisposes one to have an allergy to another unrelated drug.


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