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Medications that until recently were available only with a doctor's prescription now line the shelves of the public areas of drug stores - and pharmacist Jerry A. Shields has a warning about the over-the-counter versions.

"It doesn't mean they're less dangerous," he said.

Shields, who works in the pharmacy at Orthopedic Specialty Hospital, 5848 S. 300 East, Murray, will participate in the monthly Deseret News/Intermountain Health Care Hotline today. The hotline's subjects this month include drugs, drug interactions, generic medications and related issues."There are drugs that were once prescription (medicine), that are being turned over to over-the-counter status," he said. But the change is not because the drugs are being manufactured at decreased potency.

While they now may be purchased without a doctor's permission, and the new variety generally comes in smaller dosages, two or more doses could be just as powerful as the medicine was originally.

Patients should carefully follow the manufacturers' suggestions about amounts - and ways it should be taken. These are developed with great care.

"To get a product from prescription to over-the-counter status, there's a lot of governmental regulation . . . . They bring into account epidemiologists, poison-control experts, that kind of people," he said.

A good example of the change is Ibuprofen, which was once available only with a prescription. The medicine, used to reduce inflammation, was only produced at dosages ranging from 400 milligrams to 800 milligrams.

Now, under brand names like Motrin, it can be purchased across the counter without a prescription. The only difference is that it is in 200-milligram tablets, instead of the larger doses available with a prescription.

Too much of the nonprescription medicine can be bad for a patient. But that's nothing new: aspirin and Tylenol are dangerous, too, he said.

Aspirin can cause internal bleeding. Shields said Tylenol commonly damages the liver if taken in doses greater than recommended.

Whenever people are in doubt about medications, they should contact their pharmacists or physicians, Shields said.


Additional Information

Health hotline today

How can I avoid drug interactions while using a variety of medicines? How effective are generic prescription drugs? Can I buy over-the-counter preparations that are as good as prescription medications?

Questions like these will be answered today in a free public telephone service, the monthly Deseret News/Intermountain Health Care Hotline program. The program is a free public call-in session sponsored by the Deseret News and the Intermountain Health Care hospitals.

Pharmacists Chuck VanGorder of LDS Hospital, Eighth Avenue and C Street, and Jerry A. Shields of the Orthopedic Specialty Hospital, Murray, will answer queries about medications during the program, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Anyone with questions for Shields and VanGorder may call toll-free from throughout the region by dialing 1-800-925-8177.