Regulation of OTC Medicines

The distribution of medicine in the U.S. is based on a two-class system: prescription and nonprescription medicines. A nonprescription, or over-the-counter (OTC) medicine, is one that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found to be safe and effective for direct consumer use based on the label instructions and warnings. FDA requires a wider margin of safety for OTC medicines than for prescription drugs. FDA has subjected all OTC medicines to safety and effectiveness reviews since the 1970s.

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