A new survey conducted by the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) has revealed some concerning beliefs that patients have about acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
For example, over 40% of surveyed patients said they see over-the-counter (OTC) label use instructions as “just suggestions,” and some did not even consider OTC drugs to be medications.
Each year, of every 1 million Americans,
- 35 die from acetaminophen overdose, (11,270 total)
- 64 succumb to ibuprofen overdose (20,600 total) and
- 118 die from naproxen sodium overdose (37,996 total)
(Adv Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf 2013;2:1-5).
I was shocked when I calculated the actual totals and compared them to opioid deaths.
This whole “opioid crisis” is clearly just a matter of publicity because even more people are killed by ibuprofen and sodium than opioids. (not to mention suicide and medical errors)
“What we’re doing now—in terms of patient education both in the office and through drug labeling—it isn’t working,” said Charles Argoff, MD, professor of neurology
Besides the risk for death, NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal bleeding and damage to the esophagus and small intestine, while improper use of acetaminophen is associated with liver damage and liver failure
“The chronic pain community, in particular, is of the greatest concern because they reach for medications more often and use many types of prescription and OTC medications,” said Dr. Larson,
Aren’t we supposed to be using such non-opioid medications for our pain now? Yet it seems all other medications are either toxic or cause disabling side effects (steroids, anti-epileptics. antidepressants).
noting that there are more than 900 NSAID-containing OTC and prescription medications and over 500 acetaminophen-containing OTC and prescription drugs.
The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) , with the support of McNeil Consumer Healthcare, surveyed 251 GIs and 1,015 consumers, including 479 individuals with chronic pain.
The findings indicated that GIs treat an average of 90 patients annually who overdose on acetaminophen- or NSAID-containing medications.
- 84% of GIs said they had treated patients with abdominal pain as a presenting symptom related to improper use of NSAIDs or acetaminophen;
- 69% had patients present with NSAID- or acetaminophen-related nausea; and
- 66% said patients had presented with ulcers related to improper use of these agents.
“We’re seeing people both knowingly and unknowingly take too much medication,”
Indeed, 43% of surveyed patients said they knowingly self-administered more than the recommended dose of acetaminophen or NSAIDs
People will do whatever it takes to escape severe pain. It only seems logical that when opioids are no longer an option, pain patients will use more OTC medications and at higher doses.
there are millions of people suffering from pain, and they are doing what they think they need to do to get through the pain,” said Dr. Argoff.
I don’t think many folks really understand how desperate our pain can make us, how far we’d go to relieve it.
I’ve heard people denigrate chronic pain as “just aches and pains of aging – everyone has those”, and they really believe that’s all we have. They have no idea how pain can devour us when we have no means to shield ourselves.
“The job of the health care industry is to make safe options available, and right now we could certainly use safer, effective options to meet the needs of our patients.”
Visit GutCheckFacts.org for additional results from the AGA’s “Gut Check: Know Your Medicine” survey and patient education resources.