OTC Medicine


Over-the-counter migraine remedies can be bought without a prescription from a doctor. Over-the-counter medications, also called nonprescription drugs, are considered safe and effective when for people to use without direct guidance from a physician.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has divided all over-the-counter, or OTC, drugs into 80 categories. According to the FDA, OTC drugs must have the following qualities:

  • Can be used by consumers for self-diagnosed ailments
  • Benefits must outweigh their risks
  • Can be appropriately labeled for correct use
  • The potential for misuse and abuse is low
  • Doctors or other health practitioners aren’t necessary for people to safely and effectively use

Some nonprescription medications first came to the market as prescriptions, requiring a doctor’s permission. After these prescriptions have been used for years with a good record of safety and aren’t considered a risk for addiction, certain products are then approved by the FDA for use without a prescription.

In many cases, nonprescription versions of drugs contain lower levels of the active ingredient found in the prescription version.

Other medications come to the market as over-the-counter medications without ever requiring a prescription.


Prescription drugs or over-the-counter, what’s the difference?

Prescription drugs are those that can’t be bought without a written doctor’s prescription. These drugs need a doctor’s supervision to properly diagnose the condition and properly use the drug.

Over-the-counter drugs treat conditions that the average person is likely to correctly diagnose. These nonprescription medications also contain instructions that are simple to follow.

There are several over-the-counter migraine medicines, some that treat migraines in general and others that treat specific types of migraines such as over-the-counter drugs for menstrual migraine. Some examples include:

Many migraine sufferers want to know what is the best over-the-counter medicine to get rid of migraines? However, different medications work differently in each patient. Medications that provide relief for one person may not do the same for another.

Just because a medication is available without a prescription doesn’t mean that it has no potential for harm, including serious side effects. Your doctor should know about all medications and treatments you take, including over-the-counter medications.

As always, the best source for advice on treating your migraines is your own migraine specialist. This information on drugs and the medication descriptions are provided only for informational purposes. You should begin no medication or treatment regimen without first checking with your physician. Some of the treatments listed here are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration specifically for managing migraines, but may be approved for treating other ailments and have also been shown to relieve migraine symptoms for some in trials, in studies or in practice. Again, this information should in no way substitute or be mistaken for medical advice.