HealthDay News — The ability to purchase a product containing a class 3 topical steroid online, without physician authorization, highlights the dangers of prescription-strength medications being acquired as over-the-counter products, according to a research letter published online in JAMA Dermatology.

Katherine T. Burke, from Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, DC, and colleagues described the case of an African-American patient treated for recurrent atopic dermatitis complicated by secondary bacterial infections.

The researchers note that the patient was treated with triamcinolone 0.1% ointment, which had little effect. Without medical consultation, the patient switched to an over-the-counter triple-combination cream called Funbact-A, which had clotrimazole, and neomycin sulfate listed as active ingredients.

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The product also contained a class 3 topical steroid, prescription-strength betamethasone, and was available for purchase online without authorization from a physician. The patient had been applying the cream for only a few days before an office appointment; the product was discontinued before occurrence of adverse events.

“Dermatologists and primary care physicians should be cognizant of any over-the-counter product that their patients are using,” the authors write. “In addition, as leaders in health care and advocates for patient safety, physicians who come across these products should take the initiative to report the illegal sale of the product to the FDA.”

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Burke KT, Fricke MA, DeKlotz CMC. Prescription-strength topical steroids sold without prescription [published online November 1, 2017]. JAMA Dermatol. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.4121