In the United States and many other countries, it’s easy enough to treat everyday ailments such as headaches, a runny nose or a sore throat. A quick trip to the drugstore or supermarket presents consumers with a large selection of over-the-counter remedies that, without a doctor’s prescription, are usually able to lessen the severity of symptoms.
The history of medicines available without a prescription is an interesting one. The scheduling of drugs as available with or without a prescription continues to evolve. Cultural trends, as well as medical research into drug safety have contributed to changes in what drugs are available over the counter.
Below is a bit of trivia on the history of over-the-counter drugs.
Did you know that in 1704, a decision by the House of Lords in Great Britain permitted apothecaries (individuals who prepared medicines) to prescribe and sell drugs directly to patients? Previously, only physicians could sell and dispense drugs. By 1860, some drugs were classified as having potential for abuse, and their prescription was once again limited to physicians.
Did you know aspirin became available in 1899 as a drug? Even today, aspirin is celebrated as a safe and effective medicine for treating many ailments.
Did you know alcohol was still available via doctor’s prescription during prohibition? The United States forbade the manufacture, sale, importation and transportation of alcohol between 1920 and 1933. Still, doctors could prescribe wine and whiskey to patients, a practice that was sometimes abused by patients and medical practitioners alike.
Did you know manufacturers of over-the-counter remedies were not always required to prove that they were effective? Many dangerous and addictive substances were included in old “patent medicines,” though in 1906 the Pure Food and Drug Act began to address issues of contamination in drugs. The Food and Drug Administration eventually took control over what could be sold directly to the public, and in 1962 an amendment to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act mandated that drugs be proved “effective and safe.”