In an effort to promote self-medication in Japan, drugs switched from prescription to over-the-counter (OTC) have received a lot of attention. We conducted a survey of community pharmacists to investigate views on Rx (Prescription) -to-OTC switched drugs, aiming at the enhancement of self-medication and proposals to the Regulatory Authorities. A total of 336 respondents completed the survey.
About two-thirds of respondents (65.2％) regarded the expansion of Rx-to-OTC drugs as necessary. The percentage of pharmacists who responded that Rx-to-OTC expansion was necessary at pharmacies for prescription and OTC drugs (73.2％) was significantly higher than those at pharmacies for prescription drugs (51.2％) (P < 0.001). The most common reason for Rx-to-OTC expansion being necessary was “it has a certain level of effect on reducing healthcare costs”. On the other hand, the most common reason against Rx-to-OTC expansion was “it causes safety issues for consumers”.
The number of candidates for Rx-to-OTC recommended by pharmacists in favor of Rx-to-OTC expansion was 43 with 14 therapeutic areas excluding 5 drugs accepted as Rx-to-OTC switched drugs by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. Six out of 43 candidate drugs are considered to meet the requirements for Rx-to-OTC drugs.
We revealed some differences in pharmacists' views on Rx-to-OTC switched drugs depending on the pharmacy category. To promote self-medication, constructing a mechanism to collect opinions of community pharmacists providing OTC drugs is required. Further research in other areas and pharmacies of different categories to confirm generalizability should be done for making a proposal to the Regulatory Authorities.