People Still Ignore Pain Reliever Risks
Many Still Overuse Popular Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers, Raising Risks of Side Effects
WebMD News Archive
May 20, 2004 -- More people may be aware of the risks
associated with the popular over-the-counter pain relievers, but a new study
shows that awareness doesn't necessarily mean action.
Researchers found awareness of the safety issues surrounding
over-the-counter pain relievers, such as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory
drugs) and acetaminophen, has grown significantly in the last five years, but
more people are using the drugs inappropriately.
NSAIDs include aspirin and drugs containing ibuprofen or
naproxen, such as Advil and Aleve. Acetaminophen is found in Tylenol.
The study showed that the percentage of Americans that said
they were concerned about side effects associated with over-the-counter pain
relievers rose from 18% in 1997 to 59% in 2003. But the number of participants
who said they took more than the recommended dose of the drugs nearly doubled
during that time period.
Researchers say NSAIDs are one of the leading causes of stomach
ulcers and have been associated with side effects from stomach upset to
potentially life-threatening stomach bleeding. NSAID use and misuse leads to
more than 103,000 hospitalizations and 16,500 deaths each year in the U.S.
Taking more than the recommended dose of acetaminophen can cause liver
Taking these medications long term and without the knowledge of
a doctor significantly increases the chance of having a complication from these
drugs -- even a potentially life-threatening problem.
Lost Safety Message on Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers
In the study, which was presented this week at a meeting of
digestive disease experts, researchers combined the results of two separate
surveys on consumer's perceptions of over-the-counter pain relievers.
The first was conducted in 1997 by Roper Starch and involved
258 adults. The second was commissioned by the National Consumer League in 2003
and included more than 3,500 adults.
The study showed people are becoming more aware of the safety
issues related to over-the-counter pain relievers, but that awareness isn't
being translated into safer behavior. For example, 44% reported taking more
than the recommended dose of an over-the-counter pain reliever in 2003 compared
with 26% in 1997.
Among the other findings:
- Fewer take over-the-counter pain relievers daily (27% in 1997 vs. 15% in
More are using an acetaminophen-based pain reliever (14% vs.
About the same number are taking naproxen- and ibuprofen-based
pain relievers and aspirin.
More are concerned about side effects (18% vs. 59%).
In addition, the 2003 survey showed 33% of respondents said
that it was safe to combine over-the-counter pain relievers with prescription