The 411 on Nonpresciption Analgesics: When to Hold 'em, When to Fold 'em

Author: Alexandra L. McPherson

Nonprescription, or over-the-counter (OTC), analgesics are the most frequently used of all OTC products. Over 80% of adults have used OTC analgesics in the past year and approximately 20% use them on a weekly basis.1,2 Since these medications are available without a prescription and can be found anywhere from your pharmacy to a vending machine, they are often (and unsurprisingly) perceived as safe. These are medications that cause side effects, drug interactions and, in certain patient populations, should be avoided altogether. To make matters worse, 50% of patients who use OTC analgesics do not read the labels of these products.3 As a result, patients often end up exceeding recommended doses and using combinations of medications that magnify the risk of adverse effects. Given the ubiquity of these products, it is essential that patients and healthcare providers alike are well educated on the selection, administration and self-monitoring of nonprescription medications.

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