FDA May Make Diabetes Drugs Over the Counter

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Drugs to treat diabetes may become available without a prescription if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agrees to a new proposal under consideration, according to a report by the Associated Press (AP).

The FDA said that easing access to medications could help address under-treated diseases like diabetes. About 7 million of the 25.8 million Americans with diabetes are undiagnosed.

The FDA is considering easing restrictions on medications for cholesterol, high blood pressure, asthma and migraines as well.

Federal regulators hope to increase access to established drugs, according to the AP report. Computer touch-screen kiosks at pharmacies are also driving this new proposal. The kiosks are designed to help patients self-diagnose common diseases.

This proposal would allow patients to fill out electronic questionnaires, use blood pressure monitors and other diagnostic devices, and use other computer assisted technology to guide their medication needs.

If this proposal goes into effect, some patients may still need to see a physician to obtain an initial prescription before obtaining over-the-counter refills. Some patients may need to speak with a pharmacist before receiving medication, but would not need a physician's prescription to do so.

Reducing visits to treating clinicians is another potential benefit of this new proposal. The FDA states that decreasing the number of routine visits could free up physicians to devote time to seriously ill patients and reduce the burdens and costs on the health care system.

Pressure from pharmaceutical companies is another factor. The proposal is an effort by the FDA to help drug companies speed approval of experimental medications and bring innovative drugs on the market.

The FDA traditionally places safety and effectiveness of medical products and medications as the top priority. However, drugmakers have complained to Congress that US approval requirements are tougher than those in other countries.

The proposal is still in the early stages. A public meeting is scheduled for later in March to gather comments.

Sources: The Associated Press