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FDA moots “behind-the-counter” sales extension

The US Government is considering introducing measures to extend the scope of “behind-the-counter” sales, which allow patients to buy certain medicines directly from pharmacists without a doctor’s prescription.

The FDA said it was seeking public reaction to the proposal, including whether the move would benefit people who are uninsured.

FDA pharmacy affairs director Ilisa Bernstein said: “This is an issue that has been raised by pharmacists, by manufacturers, by patients.”

At the moment, most drugs either require a prescription or are sold in the traditional over-the-counter way.

Behind-the-counter sales offer a middle ground. Last year the FDA allowed the morning-after contraceptive pill to be sold without a doctor’s note to women 18 and older, as long as pharmacies check photo identification before handing over the medication.

The FDA will hold a meeting in Washington to gather input from patients, pharmacists and doctors on whether such a scheme will be beneficial.

Ms Bernstein said the agency is not looking to switch specific drugs at this stage.

“The purpose is just to gather information and find out more about how behind-the-counter availability of drugs can improve patient access to certain medications that would be helpful.”

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