OTC: What are they, how can I get them in Canada?

OTC: What are they, how can I get them in Canada?

Over-the-counter medicines (OTC) refer to medication that can be purchased without a prescription. Some OTC medications

Over-the-counter medicines (OTC) refer to medication that can be purchased without a prescription. Some OTC medications can prevent or treat diseases as a common cold or fever, mild cough, and tooth decay, while others can help manage migraines, allergies, and pain.  

Non-prescription medications are regulated in Canada to ensure that they are safe to use and prevent potential health risks for Canadians.

To be sold in Canada, non-prescription drugs must have a valid Drug Identification Number (DIN). This number on a product label shows that the medicine has fulfilled the standards for safety, quality, and effectiveness.

Proper self-medication practices can provide benefits such as regulating chronic diseases and reducing absence from work that minor symptoms may cause. However, there is always a risk involved in using OTC medications. These include improper self-diagnosis, inappropriate doses, overdose or abuse upon prolonged use, adverse drug reactions, and drug-to-drug interactions. We recommend you speak with a healthcare provider when choosing a new medication to ensure it's safe and appropriate for you.

Can you buy Over-the-Counter medicine online?

Yes, you can safely order over-the-counter (OTC) drugs through online pharmacies available without a prescription. Here are a few tips for identifying credible websites: 

  1. In Canada, the licensing of pharmacies and/or pharmacists is under the jurisdiction of provincial and territorial pharmacy regulatory authorities who are members of the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities (NAPRA).
  2. You can verify if the online pharmacy is licensed by the Canadian pharmacy regulatory authority or not if:
  • Search for the Canadian company address on the online pharmacy's website, usually found on the "Accueil" or "Contact Us" page. A pharmacy licence number, the College that issued the licence, a contact phone number, and an email address may be provided.
  • You can also check the licensed online pharmacies on the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities or Safe.pharmacy website.   
  1. Be aware of pharmacies that distribute medicines that do not have a DIN issued by Health Canada.
  2. Be aware of websites that promote miraculous treatments for diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
  3. Avoid websites that sell prescription medications without a prescription.

How to buy Over-the-Counter medicine?

Mednow.ca is a licensed and certified online pharmacy in Canada that provides licensed pharmacists who can assist you in selecting the appropriate OTC medications based on your personal health needs. 

Customers may interact with a licensed Canadian doctor online or over the phone call through Mednow Virtual Care. Once you've scheduled an appointment with one of our doctors, they will assess your condition and, if appropriate, diagnose, write prescriptions, and order lab work to address your health concern. They may also follow up on test findings and collaborate with your other healthcare providers to ensure optimal care. 

The most popular uses of Over-the-Counter (OTC) medicines

Over-the-Counter drugs are frequently recommended as a first-line treatment for some common symptoms:

Nasal congestion

Nasal congestion is caused by swelling of blood vessels in the tissues lining the nose. In most cases, nasal congestion causes nothing more than discomfort, however, it can cause feeding problems in children and insomnia in adults. Nasal or oral decongestants and antihistamines counter medicines can successfully relieve nasal congestion.


Decongestants are a type of drug that can help with a congested or stuffy nose. It helps treat symptoms of cold and flu, fever, sinusitis and other allergic responses by clearing the airways and lowering the swelling of the blood vessels in your nose.

Decongestants are available in pharmacies as a nasal spray, nasal drops, tablets or capsules, or syrups. However, you should not take decongestants for more than 3 days otherwise symptoms may worsen. Various over the counter nasal decongestant available in the pharmacies, such as

  1. Pseudoephedrine as Sudafed or in combination with other products such as Sinus nighttime extra strength capsules, Sinutab Daytime/Nightime extra strength capsules and Allerga-D.
  2. Oxymetazoline as Drixoral Nasal Congestion and Cooling Menthol Nasal spray. 
  3. Xylometazoline as Otrivine nasal drops. 


Antihistamines are a class of drugs that are often used to treat allergy symptoms caused by an excess release of histamine, a chemical released from your body’s immunity system. It is used to treat individuals allergic to pollen or other allergens, cold, runny nose, sneezing and motion sickness. Antihistamines are available in two generations in the pharmacy:

First-generation antihistamine:

Help with sneezing and runny nose caused by the common cold, but the most common adverse effect is drowsiness, therefore it is recommended to be taken at bedtime or with individuals who have sleep problems due to their cold.

  1. Diphenhydramine as Benadryl, available in both tablets and an elixir. 
  2. Chlorpheniramine as Chlor Tripolon or Chlor Tripolon Day Night
  3. Hydroxyzine as Atarax syrup 

Second generation antihistamine:

Help to treat allergies without causing drowsiness. The available products are: 

  1. Cetirizine as Apo Cetirizine or Reactine
  2. Desloratadine as Desloratadine allergy or Aerius.
  3. Loratadine as Apo loratadine or Claritin. 

Cough suppressant

Dry coughs are usually the result of a viral or bacterial respiratory infection in the upper respiratory tract and spread to the throat. Dextromethorphan as Balminil DM or Bronchophan Forte DM is an over-the-counter medication for the treatment of dry cough that is available without a prescription. 

On the other hand, cough with mucus, also known as a productive or wet cough, commonly happens due to allergens or irritants in the air. It can also occur as a result of a bacterial infection in the lungs or airways, or lung disease. Guaifenesin is an expectorant accessible over-the-counter drug.

Pain killers

Headaches, sore muscles, arthritis, menstrual spasms, and other chronic aches are treated with analgesics or pain relievers. Acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the main counter medicines to treat pain.

Ibuprofen as Advil, Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) as Aspirin, and Naproxen as Aleve, are all classified under the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) group.

Stomach upset

A burning feeling in the upper stomach that may spread to the upper chest is known as heartburn. It can be a sign of a variety of health problems, such as acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Heartburn can last between a few minutes to several hours and is commonly treated with OTC drugs. Some antacids contain Simethicone which is a gas-reducing and help relieve pain in the stomach.

H2 receptor antagonists as Pepcid and proton pump inhibitors as Nexium are two more medications that can be used to treat heartburn.

Diarrhea and Constipation

Over-the-counter antidiarrheal medicines, such as loperamide which slows the passage of food through your intestines, allowing your body to absorb more fluids, and bismuth subsalicylate is a medication that controls the circulation of fluid throughout your digestive system.

Your primary care provider should prescribe the ideal laxative suitable for your case for a short period, for example, osmotic agents, stool softeners, lubricants, and stimulants are medications that can help with constipation.

What medicine can you buy without a prescription?

Some of the most popular OTC medicines that you can buy in Canada without a prescription are:

  • Tums is an OTC medicine for the treatment of heartburn, sour stomach, acid indigestion.
  • Acetaminophen is used to treat minor to severe pain and reduce fever
  • Advil is a known medicine for the treatment of pain, inflammation, and fever.
  • Voltaren gel is a topical painkiller for sore muscles, arthritis pain and stiffness.
  • Benylin DM is a dry Cough Syrup used to control dry irritating coughs and contains Levomenthol, which helps you breathe more easily. 
  • Dristan Long Lasting Nasal Mist is a decongestant nasal spray to relieve nasal congestion caused by the common cold and allergic reaction 
  • Claritin is an antihistamine medicine used for relieving allergy symptoms. 
  • Otrivin is a nasal antihistamine and decongestant for the treatment of nasal congestion.
  • Imodium Complete (Loperamide/Simethicone) is an anti-diarrheal drug. 
  • Senna is a laxative for treating constipation recommended for children from 2 years old.
  • Senokot S is a combination drug to treat constipation.

About Mednow.ca

Mednow.ca is Canada’s top online pharmacy, providing an exceptional patient experience at home, including free prescription and OTC medication delivery.

Overall, our services include:

● Easy access to a doctor or pharmacist

● Virtual care

● Karie and PillSmart

● Online drug store

● Free prescription delivery

● Full-service mobile app

Best of all, Mednow.ca accepts all Canadian insurance providers.

This article offers general information only and is not intended as medical or other professional advice. A healthcare provider should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Mednow or its affiliates.


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