Over-the-Counter Medications in India: A New Era of Accessibility

▴ Over-the-Counter Medications in India
The future of OTC drugs in India looks promising, with the potential to make a substantial positive impact on public health.

In a move that could significantly change how we access medicines, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has set up a sub-committee to review and update the guidelines for over-the-counter (OTC) drugs in India. This decision comes after recommendations from the Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) earlier this year. OTC drugs are medications that can be bought without a prescription from a registered medical practitioner, making them easily available at retail outlets and pharmacies.

Revisiting Guidelines for OTC Drugs: The primary goal of the sub-committee is to examine the current guidelines and make necessary amendments to classify certain drugs as OTC. This involves establishing a comprehensive mechanism for determining which drugs should be available without a prescription. The committee will also look at international guidelines to ensure that the new regulations align with global best practices.

The Role of the Sub-Committee: The sub-committee, which consists of eight members, has been given a timeline of three months to submit its report. The members include:

- Dr. Anupam Prakash, Director and Professor of Medicine, Lady Hardinge Medical College, Delhi
- Dr. Umesh D. Suranagi, Associate Professor of Medicine, Director General of Health Services (DGHS)
- Dr. Ratan Kumar Gupta, Department of Paediatrics, Vardhman Mahavir Medical College & Safdarjung Hospital, Delhi
- Dr. Bikash Medhi, Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh
- Dr. Abhishek Agarwal, Professor, Department of Medicine, SMS Medical College, Jaipur
- One representative from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)
- Drugs Controllers of Jharkhand and Karnataka

This diverse group of experts will bring their extensive knowledge to the table, ensuring a thorough and well-rounded evaluation of the drugs under consideration.

International Standards and Best Practices: The sub-committee’s task includes comparing the current Indian guidelines with international standards. This comparison will help to create a robust and effective framework for classifying drugs as OTC. By aligning with global practices, the new guidelines aim to enhance the safety and efficacy of OTC medications available to the public.

Previous Amendments and Future Prospects: In May 2022, the Department of Health and Family Welfare issued amendments to Schedule K drugs under the Drugs Rules, 1945. These amendments exempted certain drugs from the mandatory requirement of being sold only on prescription. Building on this, the current initiative seeks to broaden the range of medications that can be accessed without a prescription.

These medications, if approved as OTC, could provide easier access for individuals seeking relief from common ailments without needing a doctor’s prescription.

Benefits of Expanded OTC Drug Access: The move to expand the list of OTC drugs is expected to bring several benefits:

1. Cost Reduction: By making more drugs available without a prescription, the overall cost of healthcare can be reduced. Patients will save on consultation fees and have quicker access to necessary medications.

2. Increased Accessibility: With more drugs available OTC, people can access essential medications more easily, especially in rural and remote areas where healthcare facilities are limited.


3. Prompt Treatment: Immediate access to OTC medications can facilitate quicker treatment of minor health issues, preventing them from escalating into more severe conditions.

Ensuring Safety and Efficacy: While increasing access to OTC drugs is beneficial, it is crucial to ensure that these medications are used safely. Public education campaigns and clear labelling on OTC medications can help ensure that people use these drugs correctly and understand when to seek professional medical advice.

Collaboration with Clinicians and Panels: The sub-committee will also incorporate suggestions from various panels and committees of clinicians constituted by the DGHS on similar matters. This collaborative approach ensures that the recommendations are comprehensive and consider the insights of healthcare professionals who understand the practical implications of these changes.

The Future of OTC Medications in India: The establishment of this sub-committee marks a significant step towards improving access to medications in India. By revisiting and updating the guidelines for OTC drugs, the CDSCO aims to create a more efficient and patient-friendly healthcare system.

The initiative by the CDSCO to expand the list of OTC drugs has the potential to revolutionize the availability of medications in India. With the sub-committee working diligently to review and update the guidelines, we can expect a more accessible and affordable healthcare landscape in the near future. This move not only aligns with global practices but also addresses the pressing need for easier access to essential medications. As the sub-committee submits its recommendations, the hope is that the changes will lead to better health outcomes and greater convenience for the public.

By keeping the focus on safety, efficacy, and accessibility, India can take a significant step forward in ensuring that essential medications are within reach for everyone. The future of OTC drugs in India looks promising, with the potential to make a substantial positive impact on public health.

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About the Author


Sunny Parayan

Hey there! I'm Sunny, a passionate writer with a strong interest in the healthcare domain! When I'm not typing on my keyboard, I watch shows and listen to music. I hope that through my work, I can make a positive impact on people's lives by helping them live happier and healthier.

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