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Demystifying Health Claims in OTC Products

Health claims on Over the Counter (OTC) medications and supplements can be confusing and make it harder to get exactly what you need when that nasty cold or flu hits. The front-of-box claims aren’t intended to give you comprehensive information on the products, but you may not always have time to extensively research simple medicines when you’re under the weather. Today, we’ll demystify what all of the different health claims actually mean.


Extra Strength

Extra or maximum strength is used by pharmaceutical companies to explain that there’s more of whatever the active ingredient is than in the company’s regular strength medication. The tricky part is that this doesn’t tell you how much more, or how much of the extra strength medication you should take.


Make sure to double-check dosing information and the concentration of the active ingredient before taking the extra-strength version of a medication. Sometimes, these options can be cheaper as you’ll need to take fewer doses than the normal strength version to achieve the desired effects. However, there are cases when medications marketed as extra or maximum strength are overpriced, and you can get away with taking the same amount of the active ingredient in the regular strength version. Always do your due diligence and make sure not to exceed the recommended dosage for any medication, regardless of strength.


Timed Release

As the name suggests, timed-release refers to medications where the active ingredient is released a little at a time in your body over a period of time instead of all at once. Critically, this is defined by the FDA, while phrases such as “long-lasting” or “long-acting” are not. These medications generally have longer-lasting effects and require fewer doses over each 24-hr period, but they also tend to be more expensive and don’t necessarily work any better.


Dual Action

These medications are usually aimed at ailments like the cold and flu when you’re combating multiple symptoms at once. All “dual-action” means is that there are at least two active ingredients that serve different purposes. While these can be an effective option for giving you quick relief from multiple symptoms, it’s really vital to make sure you’re not accidentally doubling up on active ingredients in any other medications. Always check the ingredients in dual-action medications especially carefully, and avoid taking any other OTC medicines while you’re on them if they treat the same things or have ingredients in common.


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