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There are three types of medicine for human use:

Over-the-counter medicines
Pharmacy medicines
Prescription medicines

Over-the-counter medicines

The General Sales List and Pharmacy Medicines are sometimes referred to as over-the-counter (OTC) medicines.

You can buy a medicine on the General Sales List without a prescription and without the supervision of a pharmacist.  The most common over the counter medicine you have probably used are pain relief medicine or common cold, headache or allergy medicine.

OTC medicines treat minor, self-limiting complaints, which people may feel are not serious enough to see their GP or pharmacist about.

Pharmacy medicines

Pharmacy (P) medicines are available from a pharmacy without a prescription but provided under the supervision of a pharmacist. These medicines are kept 'behind the counter' and are not available on the pharmacy shelves. You can only obtain this medicine once a pharmacist or another member of staff checks that the medicine is appropriate for you and for your health problem.

An example of a medicine that you can buy from a pharmacy without a prescription is antibiotic eye drops to treat an eye infection.

Prescription-only medicines (POMs)

Prescription-only medicines (POMs) are only available with a prescription that is issued by a GP or another suitably qualified healthcare professional. You need to see the healthcare professional before they give you a prescription.
You then take the prescription to a pharmacy for your prescription to be dispensed. Examples of POMs are antibiotics, inhalers to treat asthma or medicines to lower high blood pressure.

It is important to remember that all medicine, including OTC, can cause unwanted and sometimes dangerous side effects.

When you buy an OTC medicine, it's important to read and understand the information provided on the label. If you have any questions or concerns ask your pharmacist.