Why do I need a prescription from a doctor for some medications and not for others?

In 1938, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act was passed by Congress. This Act, and later amendments, established the current system of drug regulation in the United States. It set up classes of drugs and the requirements for approval of these drugs.

The two main classes of drugs are: (1) non-prescription drugs and (2) prescription drugs. The non-prescription drugs are commonly called over-the-counter, or OTC drugs, and can be bought without a prescription.

Prescription drugs (or legend drugs) are drugs that require a prescription because they are considered to be potentially harmful if not used under the supervision of a licensed health care practitioner. Certain prescription drugs have additional controls placed upon them. These drugs are called controlled (or scheduled) drugs.

The Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 (CMEA) was signed into law in March 2006. On September 26, 2006, the DEA issued a final rule outlining the retail provisions of the CEMA. The included products are over-the-counter products containing ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, or phenylpropanolamine (PPA). The requirements of CMEA include placing the products behind thecounter or in locked cabinets. When selling the products, the sellers (pharmacy) must check the identity of the purchaser (customer). The seller is required to collect information about the purchaser. The information required includes name and address, signature, product, quantity, time, and date of the sale. The quantity limit of each of these chemicals is 3.6 grams (base) per calendar day, with or without a prescription.