Over-the-counter (OTC) medication offers quick and convenient relief for a whole range of symptoms, conditions and ailments, but with a bewildering variety of products available in pharmacies and drugstores, making an informed decision about OTC medicine can be a challenge for consumers. Should you go for Advil or Tylenol to treat a headache? Is Claritin a better option than Zyrtec during allergy season? The choices seem endless, and many of us making decisions based on shopping habits, brand loyalty, recommendations from family and friends, or price.
A recent survey of thousands of pharmacists across the United States, conducted by industry trade publication Pharmacy Times and US News & World Report, revealed which branded health products are rated highest by healthcare professionals. The report looks at brands across more than 150 OTC categories, sorting them into 13 medication and health product groups. The results show which branded products were pharmacists' favorites, with only the top ranking products in each category earning a "No. 1 Pharmacist Recommended" designation.
The survey has been conducted annually for the last 20 years and results distributed to pharmacists to help them provide more informed guidance to consumers with questions about which OTC medication to select. However, consumers now have direct access to the results of the survey in the form of the OTC Guide, which enables patients discover which products are highly recommended by the nation's pharmacists.
The 13 main health product categories included in the guide are: cough, cold and allergy; diabetes health; diagnostics; eyes, ears nose and throat; first aid; oral care; pain and inflammation; pediatrics; stomach and GI; topical; vitamins and supplements; women's health; and other health products. We have picked out just a few of branded OTC medications to gain the No.1 Pharmacist Recommended designation.
- Cold remedies: Cepacol
- Oral antihistamines: Claritin
- Oral decongestants: Sudafed (pseudoephedrine)
- Cold sore treatments: Abreva
- Diabetic neuropathy products: Capzasin
- Topical antibiotics and antiseptics: Neosporin
- Sun burn relief: Solarcaine
- Headache products: Advil
- Anti-inflammatory products: Advil
- Migraine headache products: Excedrin Migraine
- Upset stomach remedies: Pepto-Bismol
- Menstrual pain relief: Midol Complete
- Sleep aids: Unisom
- Urinary pain relief: AZO Standard
More than eight out of ten adults in the US look to OTC medication as their first response to treat minor ailments, according to figures from pharmaceutical firm Pfizer. Over the course of a year, 2.9 billion retail trips are made by patients purchasing OTC products. The Consumer Healthcare Products Association states the availability of OTC medicines empowers families and individuals to meet everyday healthcare needs, often offering a cheaper option for patients who otherwise would not seek healthcare.
The US Food and Drug Administration gives OTC designation to drugs found to be "safe and appropriate for use without the supervision of a healthcare professional". While OTC medication is safer than prescription drugs, taking the wrong dosage or in the wrong combination with other medication could still cause health problems. Always read labels carefully and if you are unsure which medicine is suitable or safe for you, speak to a pharmacist or physician for expert advice and guidance.