About FDA

What are over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and how are they approved?

OTC drugs are drugs that have been found to be safe and appropriate for use without the supervision of a health care professional such as a physician, and they can be purchased by consumers without a prescription. These drugs are sometimes approved under applications like new prescription drugs, but more often they are legally marketed without an application by following a regulation called an OTC drug monograph.

An OTC drug monograph tells what kind of ingredients may be used to treat certain diseases or conditions without a prescription, and the appropriate dose and instructions for use. OTC products that meet a monograph’s requirements may be marketed without FDA review. OTC products that do not fit under an existing monograph must be approved under an application like the applications for prescription products.

Page Last Updated: 05/12/2016
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