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Ibuprofen turns 50! Do you buy branded or own-label drugs?

Ibuprofen pills

Ibuprofen turned 50 this year. Over the years it has joined aspirin and paracetamol to complete the holy trinity of high street painkillers. But what type do you buy – are you a brand lover or an own-label aficionado?

One of my biggest bugbears is the difference in cost between two medicines that are, in effect, exactly the same. I know not all are. If it’s an Extra or a Plus it’s likely to be longer-lasting or faster-acting, due to other things added to the active ingredient.

But if you’re just looking for a bog standard painkiller, I don’t think you need to spend much more than 50p for either paracetamol or ibuprofen.

I do know some people who swear by the big brand painkillerss. But, personally, I can’t see the difference (other than a prettier packet and a pound sign at the start of the price). Am I missing something?

Perhaps it’s some kind of placebo effect, where the comfort of a big brand over a supermarket brand makes it feel like the more expensive drugs are working better?

Why not buy own-label painkillers?

In these economic climes I would expect more people to turn to supermarket own-label painkillers, rather than just own-label food. As my Grandma used to say; ‘look after the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves’. If the effects are the same, why spend £1.95 for a branded ibuprofen when a high street generic is just 37 pence?

So, what’s your drug of choice? What medicine will you grab to alleviate the almost compulsory Christmas hangover? To kick back the headache that’s resulted from over-excited children, noisy new toys, over-loud TV and too much Christmas food (and drink)?

As for my hangover ‘cure’? It’s a mix of cheap supermarket paracetamol and ibuprofen, a bacon and egg sandwich, all washed down with plenty of water and some fresh orange juice. Merry Christmas!

What type of painkillers do you buy?

I buy cheaper own-label drugs (91%, 983 Votes)

I buy more expensive branded drugs (9%, 97 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,081

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I prefer to buy own brand products rather than pay extra to support the profits and advertising of the big brands. It amazes me that some people will pay much more for a well known brand.

The instructions provided are often better with the branded products, and the same applies with prescription medicines. I feel that all drugs should be provided with top quality instructions and that the text should be sufficiently large for elderly people with failing sight to read.


Oooh, I am excited that this gives me another chance to link to a placebo trial. This is fascinating – in quite a few studies, brand has been shown to have a fairly significant impact on the reduction in pain. Here’s an example of one:


I can’t find a Cochrane review for these trials but if anyone can find one I’d be really interested to see – I think it’s reasonably accepted now that branded placebos do better than non-branded placebos, implying that the name on the packaging itself goes some way towards curing a headache.

(This isn’t a Which? view, by the way – I don’t think we test drugs – I’m just a bit nerdy about this topic and have read around it a bit)


It’s good to see reference to a scientific paper instead of the usual links to dubious articles in newspapers and on websites.

I have often wondered if there is a legitimate use for placebos in ‘treatment’ of minor ailments. I would also like to know if branded placebos are more effective than unbranded placebos for people who know that unbranded drugs are just as effective.

Like Nikki I have an enquiring mind.


At one time GPs could write out a “coded” prescription for a placebo.
Probably considered unethical now


I use cocodamol for an occasional migrane.
I asked at a supermarket pharmacy, why their own make was now the same price as the branded packs used to be not 12 months earlier and the branded packs have almost doubled in price?
I got varied responses from, “You are just paying for the name with the branded ones” to, “They are identical, except our own brand is cheaper!”
Out of principle, I refuse to pay for supermarket own brand products.
I went locally and bought the branded pack for more than a pound less than the supermarket were charging. Every little didn’t help!


It looks like more and more of us are turning to own-brand painkillers: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2111863/Almost-SIX-BILLION-painkillers-bought-year-Britain.html


I am still using the packet of Ibuprofen I obtained from the doctor Seventeen years ago – Use about two tablets a year or less – Should last me until 2025 or longer.

dan says:
28 June 2013

well thats silly. they have a strict expiry date, usually within 2 or 3 years after purchasing. after this the active ingredient stops working, and can also become dangerous, especially after SEVENTEEN years.


I hope the Watchdog programme on BBC1 tonight has clarified, especially for the confused, that there is absolutely no difference between branded and own-brand painkillers. I have had arguments with friends who swore that Nurofen was more effective than ordinary Ibuprofen, even though I pointed out that on the boxes of both it states that the active ingredient is Ibuprofen! I put this confusion down to the power of advertising and the poor standards of science teaching. You don’t get different qualities of Ibuprofen (or aspirin, or paracetamol) – it is a licensed drug. It is wicked that advertisers get away with marketing the same drug as targetting specific pains in different parts of the body (migraine, tension headache, period pain etc)