I just read a good article (Gut Check: Know Your Medicine Survey) that summarized the public's view on over the counter pain medications. Basically, the article states that customers are taking too much over the counter medication for too long. This could result in some harmful side effects.

As a pharmacist, I know that this has always been one of the main counseling points when dispensing prescription pain medication - "don't exceed xx a day and don't take more frequently than every x hours". One of the main questions we receive is "how many can I take a day?". When you are taking a combination pain medication (Percocet, Vicodin, etc...) you also have to be aware of the cumulative acetaminophen or ibuprofen that you are taking.

People come to the counter all the time asking what dose they should take of naproxen, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, I know this is a common question. summarizes the study well saying 43 percent of chronic pain users surveyed said that they thought that the directions on the back of OTC packages were just guidelines and that they had knowingly gone over those recommendations at some point.

So pharmacists, don't assume that your patients and customers know what dose to take; the recommended doses are more than "guidelines" and can get people into trouble especially if they are elderly or have kidney or liver problems.

And consumers, don't be afraid to ask your pharmacist or provider what dose you should be taking. Don't forget to factor in other pain medicines - for example, Percocet also contains Tylenol so you need to take that into consideration when you are calculating your daily dose. If you have kidney or liver disease, please talk to your physician and pharmacist. The recommended daily doses may be lower than what you read on the package.

EducationJoanna Simmon