Taking Multiple Pain Relievers Can Cause Serious Complications

Patients who self-manage their over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications, and fail to communicate in full their typical dosage to their doctors, are putting themselves at risk. Poor self-management and communication often leads to taking multiple comparable forms, which can lead to complications.

The OTC drugs under analysis here are referred to as nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and using more than one form of NSAID can lead to gastrointestinal problems and poor quality of life.

NSAIDs come in both prescription and OTC forms, meaning poor patient-doctor communication can lead to “dual-dosages.” Musculoskeletal conditions like arthritis are the most common conditions NSAIDs are prescribed for. Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Ketoprofen, and Naproxen, are the most common forms of NSAIDs.

A recent Duke University study questioned 138 individuals who had been prescribed NSAIDs to treat various conditions. 35 (26 percent) of these individuals admitted to using some form of OTC NSAID during the same period, either knowingly (because they felt they needed more pain relief), or unknowingly (poor patient-doctor communication). These 35 individuals, on average, also were observed to have more health complications than their counterparts, and were observed to have both poorer physical and mental quality of life.

The high availability and use of many OTC NSAIDs, such as Advil (Ibuprofen) and Bayer (Aspirin), make this a pressing issue. Patients may take OTC pain medication for other conditions than what they go to their doctor for, but neglect to say that they take these NSAIDs. A subsequent prescription, based on poor communication, with similar chemicals, can lead to serious complications and discomforts. It’s also important not to mix these OTC NSAIDs on one’s own without doctor consultation.

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Kovac, Stacey. Saag, Kenneth. Curtis, Jeffrey. Allison, Jeroan. Arthritis Care & Research. “Association of health-related quality of life with dual use of prescription and over-the-counter nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs.” February 2008.