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It’s important to know the difference between Rx (prescription) and OTC (over-the-counter) drugs. Rx comes from the Latin verb “to take” and all Rx drugs require the prescription of a doctor and need to be filled by a pharmacist before you can take them. Rx medications are only to be used for the person for which the Rx is written and should never be shared with others.

OTC drugs, on the other hand, are available without a prescription and are for sale at pharmacies and drug stores, grocery stores and other locations. The FDA considers OTC drugs safe enough to take for symptoms of self-diagnosed conditions without the guidance of a medical professional. Drugs may be determined to be unsafe for OTC use if they are habit-forming or toxic, have too great a potential for harmful effect, or are for medical conditions that can’t be easily self-diagnosed.

However, even though OTC medicines are available without a prescription they can be harmful when not taken as directed. It’s important for both your health and safety that you consider all the risks associated with OTC medicine before taking them. It’s your responsibility to read the entire Drug Facts Label before taking the product. You should know the active ingredients, know what dose, and understand the warnings. You should also watch for possible side effects and contact your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about the medicine or the medicine’s interactions with other drugs you use.

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