Browsing the aisles at the pharmacy or vitamin store can feel overwhelming. With so many products to choose from, how can you know which is right for you? How do you know which ones are actually worth the money?
Becoming an informed consumer is your best defense against scams, wasting your money and unsafe medication use. Below are some of the most common myths about over-the-counter (OTC) medications, vitamins and supplements. Armed with the facts, you can be a more confident consumer.
Medication & Supplements Mythbusters with SMH Pharmacy Residents Kelsey Stalvey & Megan Galarza
MYTH #1: Name brand medications are better than generic.
FACT: This typically is not the case. The generic version of a name-brand medication has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as “therapeutically equivalent.” Compare the ingredients lists: If the name-brand product and its generic counterpart have the same active ingredients—and the same amount of them—and only the “inactive ingredients” differ, then you can expect the generic version to perform as well as the name brand. And you can usually save lots of money by choosing the generic!
MYTH #2: Medicines touting “All Day Relief” will work for 24 hours.
FACT: Sometimes this is true, but not always! For example, All Day Strong Aleve needs to be taken every 8 to 12 hours for continued symptom relief, while Zyrtec All Day Allergy Relief is formulated to be taken every 24 hours.
MYTH #3: Since you don’t need a prescription to buy OTC meds, they must be safe to take.
FACT: Some over-the-counter medications can increase your risk for side effects, especially in combination with prescription products. For example, taking a blood thinner plus Aspirin plus Ibuprofen (or other Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug) will increase your bleeding risk.
MYTH #4: All retail vitamins and supplements are safe to use and are regulated by the FDA.
FACT: Vitamins and supplements actually are not regulated by the FDA. However, some manufacturers voluntarily pay to have their products tested for purity.
MYTH #5: Supplements that are labelled as “natural” must be safe to use.
FACT: False. Many supplements, even natural ones, can have an interaction with a medication you are taking. Always check with your medical provider or pharmacist before taking a new supplement.
MYTH #6: The “% Daily Value” on a vitamin label is the amount of that vitamin you’re getting in a daily dose.
FACT: The amount of a vitamin or nutrient people need is not one-size-fits-all. While the recommended daily value is the daily dose of a particular vitamin for “the average person,” some people may need more or need less of it. Most healthy people get sufficient vitamins and minerals from their diet, so you might not need to take the supplement amount listed on the label.
Learn more facts about supplements and vitamins: Check out the recorded livestreams of our expert-led presentations, “That Herbal Supplement Does What?!” and the “The ABCs of OTCs” presentation on over-the-counter medicines; you can find them on the Sarasota Memorial Hospital Facebook page (@SarasotaMemorialHospital).
Authors Kelsey Stalvey, Pharm.D., and Megan Galarza, Pharm.D., are both recent pharmacy school graduates who are completing their PGY-1 pharmacy residencies at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Originally from Tampa, Fla., Stalvey graduated from Pacific University School of Pharmacy in Portland, Ore. Galarza, a native of Orlando, Fla., graduated from University of Florida School of Pharmacy-Orlando.