Prescription diabetes drugs may be sold over the counter in US

Fri, 09 Mar 2012
The US regulatory body, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is exploring plans to offer a range of prescription drugs for common chronic diseases, including diabetes and high cholesterol, for sale over the counter.

Although still at an early stage, the FDA is meeting to discuss the idea later this month, in a bid to help patients have access to the proper medication, while ensuring they are aware of the safety issues involved. For instance, the FDA estimate that around a third of patients taking drugs for high blood pressure - a risk factor for heart disease and stroke - are failing to keep taking them, so such a shift in policy would aim at making continued use easier.

However, a difficulty that people can have is in understanding their condition and taking a non-prescription drug at the right time, as they are not as straightforward as regular over the counter medications. People who take statins to reduce their cholesterol levels need to know a great deal about elevated fat levels in the blood, known as lipids.

As Janet Woodcock, head of the drugs centre at the FDA, said "We've had several applications already to switch statins to over the counter, and they have failed because consumers can't determine their lipid status."

The FDA have discussed with drug manufacturers how best to resolve this, including the use of self-serve kiosks, interactive videos and touchscreen pads.
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