Many Consumers Don't Know What's in Over-the-Counter
TUESDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- Few Americans bother to read
the labels on over-the-counter pain relievers, nor do they pay much
attention to the drugs' ingredients, a new study says.
This lack of awareness could be a main reason why acetaminophen
overdose is a leading cause of acute liver failure in the United
States, according to the researchers at Northwestern University in
Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, is in more than
600 over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medicines.
Researchers interviewed 45 people in six focus groups and found
that only 31 percent knew that Tylenol contained acetaminophen, 19
percent realized Advil contained ibuprofen and about the same
number knew that Aleve contained naproxen sodium.
About 75 percent knew Bayer contained aspirin and 47 percent
knew Motrin contained ibuprofen.
Fewer than half -- 41 percent -- said they read the ingredients
on drug labels.
The study appears in the May 3 issue of the
American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The fact that many people don't know acetaminophen is present in
OTC products is "incredibly alarming," said senior author Michael
Wolf, an associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University
Feinberg School of Medicine.
"People may unintentionally misuse these medicines to a point where they cause severe liver damage," Wolf said in a university news release. "It's easy to exceed the safe limit if people don't realize how much acetaminophen they are taking. Unlike prescription products, there is no gatekeeper, no one monitoring how you take it."
He and his colleagues recommend that a universal icon for
acetaminophen should appear on the labels of all medicines that
The study was funded by McNeil Consumer Healthcare, which makes
Tylenol. Wolf has worked as a paid consultant to McNeil.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about
OTC pain relievers.
Copyright © 2011
. All rights reserved.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.