March 19, 2012

Are OTC Diabetes Drugs - a Good Idea?

What do you feel about medications for diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure, asthma and migraines becoming over-the-counter (OTC) medications? The current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seriously floating this idea. No decision has been made yet, but we need to be prepared should this become submitted for comments.

This came to light in an article by the Associated Press on March 7 and was reproduced in the Washington Post dot com, business section. Another article is here.

In the past, the FDA has approved this action for many drugs only if studies show that patients can safely take the drug after reading the package labeling. There are reasons the FDA is considering this, but I will let you read the reasons on the link above.

Quinn Phillips, writing for DiabetesSelf Management dot com presents other ideas to consider. Both emphasized that this could relieve the patient per doctor load and free up doctor time for patients needing to see the doctor. It is true that we now have the home use A1c test kits. We could use these to check our quarterly blood glucose levels. This self treating of diabetes is bound to create health problems and increase the number of deaths from over medication.

Patients left to their own initiatives have a bad habit of over medication because they think more has to be better. They do this now with supplements, so why would they not do this with medications they are able to get over-the-counter? Yes, many patients will properly use the medications. There will also be patients that will under-medicate themselves thinking they can always increase the dosage later.

Someone has proposed self-serve medical Kiosks where information would be entered in a computer to assist patients in calculating the medication and the dosage required. Others are proposing that pharmacists would be able to keep the medications behind the counter and after the initial doctor's prescription, they would be able to give out the medications upon the patient updating the data via computer. This would be the self-monitoring of blood glucose data entered by the patient.

All of this leaves open the possibility of fabricating data to obtain more medications or decreasing the amount of the medications. Even if the pharmacist could perform the A1c test, people would still be potentially able to skew the results.

Since this is not yet a fact of life, we need to be aware of the potential and how we would react to this happening. The FDA emphasized that consideration of any over-the-counter change is still in the initial stages. If you have thoughts on this topic, please leave a comment below.

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