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Status of some prescription drugs

The Food and Drug Administration began two days of public hearings to decide whether to make some drugs available over-the-counter that currently require a doctor's prescription. A number of medications are being considered, ranging from blood pressure drugs to birth control pills. But there are inconsistent views about how this could be good for the consumer. //

Prescription drug usage has risen in recent years, due, to industry advertising. Pharmaceutical companies have spent nearly $1.9 billion to market their products directly to the public.

"The drug companies are simply trying to make a profit. They are not trying to tell us what the best thing is for our health." said Ron Pollack, a spokesman for Families USA. But Alan Holmer, spokesman for America's Pharmaceutical Companies, defended the ads as providing "information to patients so they can go in and have a more informed conversation with their physician about new cures and new treatments."

Some pharmaceutical firms are cautiously supportive of the trend to increase over-the-counter availability of some drugs, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol medications. However, they cite safety concerns in objecting to making other drugs, such as birth control pills, more readily available.

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