Is the New Health Care Law Going to Make Everybody Get a Prescription for OTC Drugs?
Over-the-counter medications are used by millions of Americans every day. For the most part, they have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, a government operation, so that they can be directly sold to patients without physician intervention.
It seems now that the federal government is changing their tune. According to the new health care law signed by President Obama, if you have a flexible spending account – which, by the way, 33 million Americans have - you now need a prescription for routine, over-the-counter medications.
This new provision, which was quietly hidden inside the thousands of pages of the health care reform law, is creating chaos among patients, doctors and pharmacies.
What used to be a simple trip to the drug store has now turned into a much more complicated process. Patients now have to make an appointment with their doctors, because doctors have to conduct an examination in order to write a prescription for cold medication or diaper-rash cream, or whatever else they need, which then has to be processed by the pharmacy and is subject to all the rules and regulations of any other prescription drug.
First and foremost, many doctors are already overwhelmed with serious medical conditions, and they resent the fact that patients are walking into offices demanding prescriptions for something as simple as diaper-rash cream. More prescriptions mean more paperwork – and less face time with the patients who need it. Many doctors are refusing to write prescriptions for over-the-counter drugs outright or placing a surcharge of $5 to $10 per prescription.
Second, many physicians worry about the liability involved. Over-the-counter drugs can come with side-effects, and writing a prescription for a medication that you don’t necessarily have clinical control over can leave you vulnerable to a malpractice suit, which is a huge concern for most doctors. I myself, an ob/gyn, have had patients come in requesting prescriptions for pain medications, which is not in the scope of my practice.
Third, pharmacies are upset because if many of the routine over-the-counter medications become prescription, then there are specific regulations involved. For example, only the pharmacist can disperse the requested item, and labels have to be placed on each of the bottles – just like any other prescription. This, of course, is creating extra problems and expenses for retail pharmacies all over country.
So my advice to my esteemed legislator in Washington: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Eliminate this provision immediately because it certainly does not reduce costs. If anything, it’s costing the average American more than ever -- more money, more time and more frustration.
Dr. Manny Alvarez is a Cuban-American OB-GYN who serves as a senior medical contributor for the Fox News Channel and senior managing health editor of FOXNews.com. To read more from Dr. Manny, go to askdrmanny.com.