Almost everyone in the developed world will receive chemical medicines at some point in their lives. These agents include the most commonly used treatments and are taken for illnesses ranging from relatively minor ailments to serious conditions. Most of the medicines that can be bought over the counter (OTC
), without a prescription are chemical, and include treatments for common disorders such as headaches, seasonal allergies and muscle pain. Although
they are available without a prescription, care must be taken to follow the package leaflet
instructions because they can harmful if used incorrectly. Many of these medicines have different brand names but contain the same active ingredients. Many
chemical medicines, however, require a prescription from a doctor. Prescription-only chemical medicines are used for a variety of more serious illnesses, including infection, high cholesterol, high blood pressure
other cardiovascular disorders, inflammation, depression and anxiety
, gastrointestinal disease, fertility problems, sleep disorders and cancer. In many cases, primary care doctors will prescribe treatments,
but some chemical medicines are only prescribed by specialist doctors, such as oncologists.
Chemical medicines tend to be less specific than more modern biologic treatments. This has the advantage that they may be effective for more than one illness. Medicines that act on a range of targets, however,
can also produce more side effects. This is apparent in chemotherapy, where medicines that target cancer cells also affect healthy cells. Overall, however, chemical medicines are effective with a broad range of uses. Given that chemical medicines
are usually stable, they tend to have a shelf life of around three to five years and often do not need special conditions for storage. The packaging and package leaflet will provide information on the expiry date and storage instructions. The stable
nature of these medicines generally means that hospitals and pharmacies will have a good supply and can prescribe or administer the medicine without having to order or await delivery.