Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

UA professor lectures on key issues with over-the-counter drugs


To help society become smarter consumers in pharmacies, Dean and professor of Family Medicine in College of Community Health Sciences Dr. Rick Streiffer presented a lecture entitled, “Over-the-Counter Drugs: A Prescription for Confusion” on Thursday.

“Streiffer completed his family medicine residency at the University, previously known as the Family of Practice Center,” said Gloria Oglesby, lecture facilitator. “He is board certified in family medicine and holds a certificate in geriatrics, so he’s really an expert in the field.”

Streiffer initially spoke about how common the confusion in buying over-the-counter drugs is for most ages, and how people in the United States make trips to drug store regularly for various concerns, spending a lot of money on items they do not need. According to him, many products can cause adverse effects for people as well.

He said knowing the difference between a good over-the-counter drug and a bad one is difficult because there are over 300,000 over-the-counter products in the United States.

“Many of them are unproven or are of dubious value,” he said.

Streiffer discussed strategies to use as a consumer to determine both cost efficiency and effectiveness. His two most emphasized tips are to buy generic brands and read the labels before purchasing.

“For the most part, the default is, find the brand name if you know what you’re looking for, and then look next to it and buy the generic,” he said.

He presented the many different variations of Robitussin in the cold and flu aisle and explained why reading labels is important. While there may be many different options of one brand for just “cold” symptoms, each drug is different, so reading the label will determine which particular variation is best suited for the consumer. For example, antihistamine in a drug makes one drowsy, so it is best used as a nighttime medication, he said. 

In addition, Streiffer stressed the difference between a drug and a supplement. It is often difficult for consumers to discern the difference because supplements are usually marketed as “supporters,” not relievers. Supplements are considered foods, so they are not regulated by FDA until proven harmful. There is usually no scientific evidence behind supplements and their ingredients, yet they can cause side effects.

“Supplements don’t have to prove efficacy; the consumer does,” he said.

In his conclusion, Streiffer reiterated the need for reading labels, talking to a doctor about potential adverse effects and doing other things to avoid medicines such as staying busy.

“As a society, we’re too quick to grab a pill,” he said. “We really are, and that’s the bottom line.”

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