Pain Relievers Use Caution

Jan. 23, 2004: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has launched a national education campaign to provide advice on the safe use of over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief products. FDA's campaign focuses on the OTC pain and fever reducers that contain acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which include products such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium and ketoprofen.

Our Comments: We applaud the FDA for its educational campaign on the safe use of OTC products for pain. But will it help?

We are looking at a large bottle of acetaminophen. It is Tylenol. The name is in large letters on the label. The warnings on the label are in print at most one-sixth that size. We cannot read the warnings without our glasses and, even with them, the warnings are not easy or inviting to read. How many people have read the label? Have you?

Some years ago, one of us became anemic. The culprit was ibuprofen, which was causing low-grade bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract. For arthritis we had been taking a couple of Advil tablets up to three times a day (within the limits on the label). What was NOT on the label what the fact that Advil can cause stomach bleeding, particularly in senior citizens.