Unit 5 – Prescribing in Practice

Over-the-Counter Medicines


Are you aware of where you stand legally when recommending to a patient an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine?

Nurses, in addition to being accountable for prescribing, are also accountable for advising on the use of OTC medicines. It is therefore imperative that sufficient information is obtained from the patient to ensure recommendation of the most suitable OTC product.

Specialist knowledge or training is also required when advising a patient on the use of complementary medicines, such as homoeopathy and aromatherapy, as nurses are also accountable for recommendations on this type of therapy.



NMC Guidelines for the Administration of Medicines (2004)

Read the sections subtitled 'Complementary and alternative therapies' on page 9 and 'Unlicensed medicines' on pages 11-12 of the NMC document.

Greenstein, B. (2004) Trounce's Clinical Pharmacology for Nurses (17th Edition). Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.
Chapter 35, 'Herbal medicines (phytotherapy) and homeopathy', 433-443.

It is also important to be aware of the different licences that may be issued for a single product: it should be used only for the purpose(s) for which it has been licensed. If it used for any other purpose, the prescriber will be acting outside their legal responsibilities. Product licences tend to be more restrictive when a product is intended for sale, to safeguard the public and to ensure that any potentially serious problems are referred to the doctor.


Contact or visit your local community pharmacy, if convenient, and ask about the packaging of hydrocortisone cream 1%, Eumovate cream and Buccastem tablets.

Make Notes

Make notes on the above OTC products and the differences between the retail and prescribing product licences, and any other products you may have discovered.


If you can, talk to the pharmacist about any other products that may have different product licences for retail or prescribing use.

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