The Learned Disintermediary

  • by: |
  • 04/30/2012

Patient, diagnose thyself -- and then reach a little deeper into your wallet.

Physician, step aside.

Pharmacist, step up to the plate.


The FDA may soon permit Americans to obtain some drugs used to treat conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes without obtaining a prescription.

The FDA says over-the-counter distribution would let patients get drugs for many common conditions without the time and expense of visiting a doctor, but medical providers call the change medically unsound and note that it also may mean that

Under the changes that the agency is considering, patients could diagnose their ailments by answering questions online or at a pharmacy kiosk in order to buy current prescription-only drugs for conditions such as high cholesterol, certain infections, migraine headaches, asthma or allergies.

By removing the prescription requirement from popular drugs, the Obama administration could ease financial pressures on the overburdened Medicare system by paying for fewer doctor visits and possibly opening the door to make seniors pay a larger share of the cost of their medications.

The change could have mixed results for non-Medicare patients. Although they may not have to visit a doctor as often, they could have to pay out more money for medications because most insurance companies don't cover over-the-counter drugs.

How will this impact patient compliance?  How will this effect one condition masking another, more serious one?

How will this change the role of the pharmacist?

Comments on the FDA proposal are due by May 7.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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