Food, Drugs and Self-care Products

Prescription and OTC drugs

Updated: Dec 25, 2018 Print
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Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs are drugs that must be approved by the National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) and be prescribed by licensed physicians or licensed assistant physicians to be dispensed, purchased and used in order to ensure drug safety. Therefore, doctors who prescribe such drugs must have a professional qualification, and patients must purchase and use them under the supervision and guidance of doctors.

In addition, prescription drugs are only allowed to be advertised in professional medical newspapers and magazines and cannot be advertised through the mass media. 

In general, prescription drugs refer to

(1) New drugs on the market. Its activity or side effect should be further observed. 
(2) Drugs on which patients may become dependent, such as morphine analgesics and some sedative and hypnotic drugs. 
(3) Drugs that carry toxicity, such as anticancer drugs. 
(4) Special drugs for the treatment of some diseases, such as drugs for cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disorders, must be prescribed and administered under the guidance of a physician.

OTC Drugs

OTC (over the counter) drugs refer to drugs that the National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) declares can be purchased and used by consumers at their own discretion without the prescription of licensed physicians or licensed assistant physicians. Therefore, OTC drugs ensure safety and effectiveness, are easy to access and have stable quality.

OTC drugs include anti-cold medicines, antitussives, analgesics, digestants, stomach acid drugs, vitamins, anthelmintic, nutraceuticals, cathartics, external medicines, contraceptives, and skin care drugs. OTC drugs generally have been reviewed comprehensively over a long period.

OTC drugs are classified into Category A and Category B according to safety. There are exclusive logos printed on the packaging, as a reference when purchasing drugs.

The background color of logo of Category A OTC drug is red, which can be sold only in general drugstores or medical institutions' pharmacies with pharmaceutical trade license and equipped with licensed pharmacists or higher-level pharmaceutical professionals. The green background color of the "OTC" logo on the Category B OTC drugs means they can be sold in approved general stores in addition to general drugstores and medical institutions' pharmacies.

Logo of Category A OTC drug

                  Logo of Category B OTC drug


Note: Despite the high safety of OTC drugs, people are advised to consult professional physicians and follow the drugs’ instructions.


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