Prescription Drugs

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Prescription drugs are medications that require a medical professional's authorization for use. Physicians, nurse practitioners, dentists, veterinarians, psychologists, and optometrists can each prescribe certain categories of prescriptions. Some prescription drugs treat or cure medical conditions themselves, while others (such as pain relievers) may only treat symptoms. Drugs that do not not require a prescription are called over-the-counter drugs, and are available to the general public at grocery stores, department stores, and pharmacies. Prescription medicines, on the other hand, may only legally be obtained from licensed pharmacies, and may only be legally used by the prescription holder.

The most common prescriptions in the United States are opioid painkillers, blood pressure medications, synthetic thyroid hormone, antacids, and anti-diabetes drugs.[1]


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Flickr: Simon J. Newbury
Used to Treat various diseases and conditions[2]
Generic drugs Bio-equivalent to brand name drugs[3]
Generic information Available in the FDA's Electronic Orange Book[3]
Prescription drug side effects Can be reported to the FDA at 800-FDA-1088[4]
Most commonly prescribed prescription drug Hydrocodone/acetaminophen combination painkiller (brand name Vicodin)[1]
Most commonly abused prescription drugs Opiods, central nervous system depressants, stimulants[5]
Disclaimer The information provided by PharmacyDrugGuide is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Do not take any action based on the information on this page without consulting a physician.
Author Susan MacDowell


Prescription Drugs

General information on prescription drugs

United States Regulation of Prescription Drugs

In the United States, prescription drug regulation is governed by the Prescription Drug Marketing Act of 1987. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees the regulation of prescription drugs as well as over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and biological therapeutics.[6] This oversight includes approving drugs, determining which conditions a drug may be prescribed for, overseeing clinical trials, and monitoring reported side effects and adverse reactions.


Generic Prescription Drugs

When a prescription drug is covered by a patent, it can only be manufactured and marketed by the patent holder. After the patent expires, other manufacturers can apply to the FDA to market genericversions of the drug. Generics use the same active ingredients as brand name drugs, and are identical in dosage and intended use.[3] Inactive ingredients may vary.

Prescription Drug Abuse

Taking a prescription drug prescribed for someone else is considered abuse, as is using medicine in a manner other than prescribed. According to the National Institutes of Health, 2009 survey results indicate that 16 million American teens and adults over 12 years of age had abused prescription drugs at some point in their lives.[5]

The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported on July 15, 2010, that the use of prescription drugs for non-medically prescribed purposes increased 400% between 1998 and 2008. According to SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D., "The non-medical use of prescription pain-relievers is now the second most prevalent form of illicit drug use in the nation, and its tragic consequences are seen in substance abuse treatment centers and hospital emergency departments throughout our nation."[7]

Prescription Drug Side Effects

Every drug has the potential to cause side effects. These can range from annoying to life-threatening. Some of the most common side effects include upset stomach for oral medications and skin irritation for drugs applied topically. Dangerous side effects are relatively rare with most prescriptions.

In some cases, side effects are produced when prescriptions are combined with other drugs or substances. For example, alcohol mixed with certain pain medications can result in breathing problems.

Also See: Drug Savings, Drug Coupons, Drug Side Effects, Patient Assistance Programs, Free Drug Samples, Marijuana, Controlled Substances and Illegal Drugs



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