The Pharmacist’s Prescription

Medicines sold without a prescription, called over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, are often as powerful as prescription medicines and should be taken with care. Grogan discusses the pitfalls and advantages of dealing with the more than three hundred thousand nonprescription drugs on the market, offering advice on their best use and his own opinions concerning which work best.

Each chapter deals with a health problem that people can self-medicate, such as colds, pain, and digestive ills. The author discusses the major brand-name medicines that treat each of these problems and tells whether he would recommend them and why. He objects to OTC medicines with multiple ingredients for what advertisers call “multisymptom relief,” because no one has all the symptoms at the same time, and it is more effective to treat the symptoms one does have at that moment. Popular medicines also make his “not recommended” list if they contain ineffective ingredients, if a better medicine is available, if the advertising for them suggests that they are better than they are, and if they cause serious side effects.

The lists of OTC drugs provide an easy synopsis for the reader, and the text is enjoyable. Grogan provides information on which drugs interact with others and what ingredients to look for when choosing a medicine, and he gives simple answers to questions such as why a cough is worse at night.

The chapter on vitamins and minerals stresses that vitamin supplements are not as harmless as many people suppose. Grogan suggests times when such supplements may be necessary, and tells of natural ways to get vitamins through diet. This section is the only one that does not compare brand names for the products.

Grogan makes it clear that this book is designed to give guidelines to the person who is not under a physician’s care; it is not intended to take the place of prescription medicine and professional medical advice.