PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Food and Drug Administration is considering making some common prescription medicines non-prescription.
These would include drugs for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, certain infections, migraines, asthma and allergies.
“I think it would improve patient access to medicines,” says Allegheny General Hospital pharmacist Michael Korczynski.
But is it safe?
“Patients need to be evaluated by a doctor. We need to determine which medicine is appropriate. We also need to follow them to make sure they’re getting to goal,” says Dr. Marc Itskowitz, a primary care internist at Allegheny General Hospital.
“Most patients will have no idea what their blood pressure should be, how low their LDL cholesterol should be. So you’re really going to need the input of a doctor to get optimal care.”
Even this pharmacist admits, getting meds over-the-counter removes some of the built-in safeguards of prescriptions.
“What it could do it take these medications out of drug interaction screens,” says Korczynski. “I think there’s a perception with this process that physicians would actually be cut out of the loop and I would never be an advocate of that.”
The move could help the government save money on doctor visits and drug coverage funded by Medicare.
It follows that “over-the-counter” would also mean payment for medicine out-of-pocket by consumers.
“If patients find out that they’re going to be paying more for medicines, that may not be something that they find favorable,” says Korczynski.
“While it may be less expensive now, if they would suffer a heart attack or stroke down the road, the system may wind up paying more money to take care of these patients,” Dr. Itskowitz points out.
Within the last few years, there was a push to make cholesterol lowering medicines called statins over-the-counter and that failed.
Through May 7th, the FDA is reviewing public comments on this latest push, though the list of specific drugs under consideration has not been released.