Do You Know How Safe Your Over-the-Counter Pain Reliever Really Is?

Even though there's a great deal of evidence to the contrary, an alarmingly small number of patients don't understand all the dangers associated with over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications, according to a survey of some 1,100 consumers conducted, not surprisingly, by a UK drug company marketing the acetaminophen variant Panadol.

The startling numbers collected in a survey of more than 1,100 consumers that demonstrates how little people really think about the drugs they're taking:

  • Thirty-three percent take the first painkiller available for a headache.
  • Less than half were unaware which OTC painkillers posed a danger to their health, based on their specific medical conditions.
  • Only a little more than half of the women polled had a better understanding of which OTC painkillers were problematic for those with asthma, digestive problems and heart issues, compared to just 41 percent of males.

The only reassuring numbers reported were buried near the bottom: More than 40 percent of men and about a quarter of all women polled take no medication whatsoever for their pain. Perhaps, that's a good sign patients are beginning to understand the harm even OTC meds can do to their bodies and have found safer solutions than taking a pill -- prescription or otherwise -- they know nothing about.

BBC News November 6, 2006