Revised: 11 April 2013


Pharmacist-Only Medicines

What are Pharmacist-Only Medicines?

Pharmacist-Only medicines (also known as Restricted medicines) are a relatively small group of medicines that can be purchased from a pharmacist without a doctor's prescription. They are not available for self-selection from the pharmacy shelves, and the sale must be made by a pharmacist. When selling these medicines, pharmacists must fulfil some special requirements designed to make sure you are properly informed about the safe and correct use of your medicine.

You should use Pharmacist-Only medicines only for the purpose recommended by the pharmacist or included in the printed information. Pharmacist-Only medicines should not be shared with other people.

Where do I find Pharmacist-Only Medicines?

Pharmacist-Only medicines are usually stored behind a counter or in the dispensary, to prevent consumers from buying the medicine for the wrong purpose or without the proper advice.

Who can sell Pharmacist-Only Medicines?

Only a qualified pharmacist is allowed to sell a Pharmacist-Only medicine. If you ask for a particular Pharmacist-Only medicine, or request treatment for a condition that requires the use of a Pharmacist-Only medicine, the sales assistant will ask the pharmacist to speak to you. The pharmacist's expertise is required to ensure you get the right medicine for the right condition and that you know how to use it safely.

What should I expect when I make a purchase?

Your pharmacist will ask you a number of questions before selling you a Pharmacist-Only medicine. Don't be embarrassed or annoyed by the questions. The pharmacist needs to confirm what the problem is and suggest an appropriate treatment, in a similar way to a doctor prescribing a medicine.

You should expect the pharmacist to take you to a part of the pharmacy that is private before asking these questions. Many pharmacies now have consultation rooms for this purpose.

You will be asked your name and address so the pharmacist can keep a record of the sale.

What questions should I be asked?

You will be asked about your symptoms - what they are, how long you have had them and whether they have changed. If your pharmacist thinks it is necessary, you will be advised to see your doctor. You may also be given advice on how to help the problem without taking a medicine. The pharmacist may choose not to sell you a Pharmacist-Only medicine, even if you have specifically requested it. The decision rests with the pharmacist.

You may also be asked about other medicines you are using. You should tell your pharmacist about all medicines and other remedies or supplements you take - including those prescribed by your doctor, and those bought from a pharmacy, supermarket or health food shop (including eye drops, nasal sprays, ointments, skin patches, herbal remedies and dietary supplements etc.). Your pharmacist needs to know about all the other medicines you are taking because some medicines can cause others to be less effective, or react with others to cause unpleasant or even dangerous side-effects.

Your pharmacist will also need to know whether you are suffering from any other medical conditions. This is because a medicine taken to improve one condition can make another unrelated condition worse. The pharmacist may also ask if you have ever had any allergies or reactions to a medicine. Always remember to tell the pharmacist if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning a pregnancy.

What information should I be given?

The pharmacist should give you information about the following:

  • how to use the product
  • how often to use it and for how long
  • when to seek medical advice
  • what side-effects, if any, may be expected and what to do about them
  • what medicines or other substances to avoid while using the product.

Don't be afraid to ask about anything that is not clear to you. Always tell your pharmacist if the medicine upsets you or causes any kind of unpleasant reaction.

What conditions can be treated with Pharmacist-Only Medicines?

The following are some of the conditions which can be treated with Pharmacist-Only medicines:

  • cramp
  • eye infections
  • fungal infections of the toe or finger nails
  • hayfever or rhinitis
  • haemorrhoids
  • mouth ulcers
  • nausea caused by migraine
  • skin problems such as itching, rashes, inflamed fungal infections
  • thrush of the mouth
  • thrush of the vagina
  • warts.

A pharmacist will be able to advise you about whether there is a suitable product for you.

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