Introduction: An increasing number of drugs are sold directly to the consumers without a prescription from pharmacies and from non-pharmacies such as supermarkets and gas stations. Aim of study: To analyse the consumption of over-the-counter drugs (OTCs) among patients recently discharged from two hospital departments. Furthermore, to describe where the drugs had been bought and to which extent OTCs used prior to admission were recorded in the hospital files. Method: Patients were visited within 1 week after discharge and interviewed about OTC use. Home inventories were inspected. Hospital files and discharge letters were examined. Results: In totally, 83 surgical and 117 medical patients were included (n = 200). Whereas the home inventories of 187 patients comprised 587 OTCs, 13 patients (7%) stored no OTCs. Of the patients, 134 (67%) used OTCs daily and 132 patients (66%) used OTCs on demand; 79 patients (40%) stored a total of 157 OTCs not currently used. Analgesics were used by 138 patients (78%). Acetaminophen was the OTC used most frequently. Of the 240 OTCs used daily, 238 (99%) had been purchased from pharmacies and 169 (70%) had been prescribed. Of the 430 OTCs used daily or on demand, 348 (81%) had been recommended verbally or prescribed by health care professionals. Among the 206 OTCs used daily prior to admission, 162 (79%) were recorded in hospital files, whereas only 41 (24%) of 173 OTCs used on demand were recorded. Conclusion: Two of three surgical and medical patients use OTCs daily. Most OTCs are used with the consent of health care professionals and are purchased from pharmacies. Pre-admission OTC use is incompletely recorded in the hospital files. If information was systematically collected from pharmacies and general practitioners, the number of recall biases concerning OTC use in the medication histories may be reduced.