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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Drugs

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Approved Drugs: Questions and Answers

How is a medicine approved by FDA?

Drug companies seeking approval to sell a drug in the United States must test it. First, the drug company or sponsor performs laboratory and animal tests to discover how the drug works and whether it's likely to be safe and work well in humans. Next, a series of tests in humans is begun to determine whether the drug is safe when used to treat a disease and whether it provides a real health benefit. The company then sends FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) the data from these tests to prove the drug is safe and effective for its intended use. A team of CDER physicians, statisticians, chemists, pharmacologists, and other scientists reviews the company's data and proposed labeling. If this review establishes that a drug's health benefits outweigh its known risks, the drug is approved for sale.

Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are regulated by FDA through OTC Drug monographs. OTC drug monographs are a kind of "recipe book" covering acceptable ingredients, doses, formulations, and labeling. Monographs will continually be updated adding additional ingredients and labeling as needed. Products conforming to a monograph may be marketed without further FDA clearance, while those that do not, must undergo separate review and approval through the "New Drug Approval System."

How can I find out if my medicine is approved by FDA?

To find out if your drug has been approved by FDA, use Drugs@FDA, a catalog of FDA-approved drug products, as well as drug labeling. Drugs@FDA contains most of the drug products approved since 1939.

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