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Survey: Consumers lax in using OTC pain relievers safely

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FORT WASHINGTON, Pa. — Many consumers don’t heed safety factors when choosing and using over-the-counter pain relievers, a national survey supported by McNeil Consumer Healthcare finds.

Of 1,292 U.S. adults who have used an OTC pain reliever in the last 90 days, 65% don’t consider other OTC medicines they are taking and 45% don’t take into account their prescription medications, according to the online and telephone poll, conducted by APCO Insight for McNeil and the U.S. Pain Foundation.

OTC pain reliever aisle_Rite AidLess than half of consumers polled understand that selecting the right OTC pain reliever depends on their health profile, McNeil and the U.S. Pain Foundation noted.

Of respondents, 97% said they feel confident when picking an OTC pain relief product. Yet the study revealed that consumers value factors like how effectively and quickly they think an OTC pain reliever will alleviate their pain much more than safety considerations, such as whether other medicines they’re using and their health conditions can raise the risk of harmful side effects when taking certain active ingredients for pain.

Specifically, the survey found, 58% of respondents don’t consider their pre-existing health conditions, 73% of those age 60 and older don’t consider their age, and 20% don’t consider any of the aforementioned safety factors regarding usage of OTC painkillers. Also, 33% disregard recommendations from health care professionals.

“Not every OTC pain reliever is appropriate for everyone,” stated Dr. David Biondi, senior director of medical affairs and clinical research at McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a unit of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. and the maker of such pain relief brands as Tylenol and Motrin. “When you’re in pain, it becomes easy to reach for the first OTC pain reliever on the shelf, but it’s always important to consider your current health profile. A pain reliever that was right for you in the past may not be the right choice for you now.”

Other key findings concerning OTC pain reliever use included the following:

• 94% of U.S. adults depend on OTC pain relief products to manage their pain, with 85% of respondents saying they use an OTC pain reliever at least once a month and 53% using one each week or more.

• 56% of consumers choose an OTC pain relievers based on how quickly it works, and 62% do so according to how effectively it works.

• 79% of respondents don’t consider that when their health conditions change, the OTC pain product that they’ve typically taken may be potentially harmful.

• 37% of those with cardiovascular disease and 43% of those with hypertension don’t deem their current health conditions as very important when selecting an OTC pain reliever.

“When choosing an OTC pain reliever, consumers should always balance finding effective relief with important safety considerations like their age, current health conditions and other medicines they are taking,” noted Paul Gileno, founder of the U.S. Pain Foundation, a nonprofit organization serving people who live with pain conditions, their families and their caregivers. “People with pre-existing conditions, or those that are currently taking prescription medicines, need to be especially careful when choosing an OTC medicine for pain relief.”

McNeil added that it has expanded its GetReliefResponsibly.com website to help consumers make more informed decisions when selecting OTC medicines for pain. The site now offers more resources for consumers and health care professionals on how to safely choose, use and store OTC pain relievers.


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