Let’s get straight to the point. Your question is can you buy antibiotics over the counter? The answer is no, you cannot. The reason? Under federal law, all antibiotics require a doctor’s prescription.
Why do antibiotics require a prescription?
Antibiotics require a prescription, because each time one is used, the risk that future infections will be resistant to them is there. Antibiotics are used to fight bacterial infections. If you take the wrong antibiotic or take one when it’s not needed, an infection may worsen or you could experience an allergic reaction.
According to the CDC, many antibiotics that are prescribed by doctors and clinics are not needed. This issue could increase dramatically, if patients were given the keys to determine if they need an antibiotic. If antibiotics were available over the counter, the risk of antibiotic resistance would increase significantly.
What is antibiotic resistance?
Antibiotic resistance is when bacteria do not respond to the drugs that are designed to kill them. Bacteria can evolve. If antibiotic resistance were to happen, simple infections could become more fatal. Antibiotic stewardship, or the way the drugs are prescribed or used, is critical when making sure antibiotic resistance doesn’t occur.
Can you buy antibiotics over the counter? No.
No, you cannot buy antibiotics over the counter. Your doctor must write you a prescription to get filled at the pharmacy. Be sure you shop around for the price of your antibiotic, before filling and paying for it.
When are antibiotics needed?
Always consult a physician, if you feel you need prescription treatment. One of the major reasons an antibiotic requires a prescription, is due to misdiagnoses untrained professionals can make. Antibiotics cannot successfully treat a viral infection. Below is a cheat sheet for when an antibiotic may or may not be needed.
Cough or Bronchitis? No.
Since the usual cause of cough or bronchitis is viral, antibiotics are not needed. If you have issues with your lungs, or have an illness that just won’t go away, your doctor may prescribe you an antibiotic.
Cold or Flu? No.
Since viruses usually cause colds and bouts of the flu, antibiotics are not used.
Ear Infections? In some cases.
In some cases, antibiotics are used to treat ear infections. Not all ear aches are considered an ear infection though. If it’s not bacterial, your doctor will most likely not prescribe you an antibiotic.
Sinus Infections? In some cases.
If it’s just a runny nose, you’re barking up the wrong tree, if you ask your doctor to prescribe you an antibiotic. If your stuffy nose just doesn’t go away, your doctor may identify that it’s a sinus infection and will possibly prescribe you an antibiotic.
Sore Throat? No.
Most sore throats are viral infections, so an antibiotic is not needed.
Strep Throat? Usually.
Strep throat is usually caused by bacteria. So, if your physician determines you have strep throat, he will most likely write you a prescription for an antibiotic.
How to better afford antibiotics
Antibiotics aren’t usually seen as an overly expensive drug, but there are still ways to save on the medication. By shopping around, you could save significantly on the cost of your antibiotic. For example, you may pay $25 for the cash price for Zithromax. Whereas, if you shop around for your medications, you could get a coupon for $9.41. That’s a savings of about $15. Well worth the couple minutes it takes to search drug prices.
LowestMed’s Health Information Center is meant for educational purposes and is not intended for medical advice. If you would like to recommend any story ideas, feel free to contact us.