Plan B(TC)

  • by: |
  • 10/04/2007
The FDA has announced, via the Federal Register, a November 14 hearing to explore "the public health benefit of drugs being available without a prescription but only after intervention by a pharmacist."

The agency wants input on issues such as whether there should be a behind-the-counter status for certain drugs and whether the status should be a transitional way for prescription products to eventually move to over-the-counter status, where consumers can purchase products on store shelves. Other questions include the impact on patient safety and whether it would improve access to medications.

A BTC category would almost certainly reopen the conversation about the “statin quo.”

In 2005, an FDA advisory panel voted down a bid by Merck & Co. and Johnson & Johnson to sell Mevacor, a cholesterol-lowering drug, without a prescription. Several panel members said the FDA should consider establishing a behind-the-counter system that would allow consumers to purchase Mevacor from pharmacists much like the British are allowed to purchase Merck's Zocor, another cholesterol-lowering drug. Most panel members said that, if such a system existed in the U.S., they would have voted to allow Mevacor to be sold without a prescription.

The FDA noted that other countries with behind-the-counter status include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland.

This is an important debate as well as a "teaching moment" for American pharmacists to communicate the crucial role they play in 21st century American health care.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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