Over-the-counter medicines are widely used to treat various ailments, such as colds, flu, stomach aches and pains, headaches and other pain syndromes. They may be prescribed by your doctor or purchased without a prescription from pharmacies and health food stores. There are many different types of over the counter medications available in the market today:
Homeopathic medicines (also known as “homeopathic drugs” or “herbal medicines”) are preparations made with plants, minerals, animal parts or other substances that have been diluted so much that they no longer produce any active ingredient when tested under laboratory conditions. Homeopathy is based on the theory that all diseases are caused by imbalanced levels of chemicals in the body. These chemical imbalances can be corrected through treatment using homeopathic remedies.
Herbs are non-toxic plant extracts used for medicinal purposes. Many herbal products contain ingredients that are considered safe for human consumption. However, there is some concern among medical professionals about the safety of certain herbs and their use in treating specific illnesses. For example, there have been reports of adverse reactions associated with the use of St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) in combination with chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer patients.
There are several types of herbal medicines available in Canada. These include:
1. tinctures (glycerites, vinegars, etc)
3. tablets (including hard and soft gelatin capsules)
4. ointments, creams or gels (including vaginal and suppository products)
5. plasters (transdermal patches)
7. bulk substances (that can be used to make teas or ingested).
The use of homeopathic medicines and other products is regulated by the Natural Health Products Regulations under the Food and Drugs Act. Under these regulations, the term “natural health product” means a product that is:
1. a vitamin;
2. a mineral;
3. an herb or herbal mixture;
4. an amino acid;
5. a substance that is present in a plant, or a combination of several substances from one or more plants, and that is
modern medicine and safe for use;
6. an essential fatty acid; or
7. an antioxidant.
These products are not drugs and are not included in the definition of a drug (section 2 of the Food and Drugs Act). As such, they do not require a prescription to be sold or purchased in Canada. As well, they are not included in the FDA’s list of drugs that can be sold over the counter without a prescription.
In order for a product to be sold as a natural health product, it must also meet the requirements set out in section 4 of the Natural Health and Products Regulations. For a product to meet these requirements, the product must:
1. be sold in a pharmacy or by a individual who is licensed by a provincial regulatory body (such as the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia).
2. be represented as a remedy for a disease (such as poor eyesight), an illness (such as the flu) or an injury (such as a burn).
3. must have a traditional history of use in helping the condition it is claimed to treat.
4. must be labelled and sold with accepted information about its use.
In other words, you should know how much of the product to take, how often you should take it and how you should take it.
5. changes to the product must be supported by scientific evidence
The Natural Health Products can also be sold as non-medicinal herbal products. These products don’t need to meet any of the requirements listed above. As well, these products do not need to include a list of ingredients or carry a warning about allergies or adverse reactions. They do, however, still have to clearly display the statement “This is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease.” on the label.
Another type of product that is regulated under the Natural Health Products Regulations are traditional medicines. These products are identified by Health Canada as having a significant historical use, and they have been used by indigenous people in Canada prior to June 17,1985. These products do not have to meet any of the requirements listed above, but they must be manufactured in a facility that is licensed and inspected by Health Canada. Any claims made for these types of product must be supported by adequate documented evidence.
The labels of all natural health products sold in Canada must include:
1. A list of the products ingredients (in order of the highest to lowest amount present in the product)
2. The name of the product and company that manufactures it
3. The directions for use of the product
4. The warning statement required by these regulations (This isn’t intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease.)
5. The name and phone number of the pharmacy which dispensed the product or of the company which manufactures it.
This serves as a method of contact in the event adverse reactions to a product are reported.
When purchasing or taking any type of natural health product, you must remember that it hasn’t necessarily been proven to be safe and effective. As such, you should tell your health care provider about what types of products you are using. This allows for him or her to better monitor your health. Also, if you experience any adverse reactions from a product, you should inform your local health department or the pharmacy who sold the product to you.
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Darifenacin, an M3 selective receptor antagonist, is an effective and well-tolerated once-daily treatment for overactive bladder by F Haab, L Stewart, P Dwyer – European urology, 2004 – Elsevier
Validation of an overactive bladder awareness tool for use in primary care settings by KS Coyne, T Zyczynski, MK Margolis, V Elinoff… – Advances in …, 2005 – Springer
Oxybutynin transdermal system improves the quality of life in adults with overactive bladder: a multicentre, community‐based, randomized study by P Sand, N Zinner, D Newman, V Lucente… – BJU …, 2007 – Wiley Online Library