Why STD medications should not be too easy to buy

If you have an STD outbreak or suspect you may be infected, an over-the-counter treatment might just seem like the ideal combination of discretion, relief, and budget consciousness. But the FDA warns that STD products sold over the counter or online are not only a waste of time and money, they could be dangerous.

According to the FDA, there are at least 15 such products on the market, some of which are marketed as dietary supplements, that make unproven claims to prevent, treat, or even cure sexual transmitted diseases, including chlamydia, herpes, HIV, AIDS, and genital herpes.

Debbie Birnkrant, MD, a FDA medical expert says the products could lead to a public health threat.

"If you aren't treating your STD with an FDA-approved medication, you're not just putting your own health at risk-you could be endangering your partner," Birnkrant noted.

The FDA and FTC are threatening legal action to manufacturers if the products are not removed from the market, and are focusing on the brands Medavir, Herpaflor, and Viruxo. In the meantime, Birnkrant says consumers should be well-informed about how to get a proper treatment. The only way to reliably test and diagnose an STD is by a health care professional, she says.

The only FDA-approved medications to treat STDs are available with a prescription. And the only non-prescription prevention method is using a condom, which reduces the chance of spreading infection from partner to partner.

Curious which STD products the FDA is warning consumers to skip? Check out this Flickr stream with photos of the bogus treatments.

Should reliable, safe STD remedies be available over-the-counter? Or is it better that they stay prescription-only?