/ Health, Shopping

Are targeted painkillers a waste of money?

Have you ever bought targeted painkillers for migraine, period or muscle pain? If you have, you might have bought the same product three times over…

The Australian Federal Court has ordered the manufacturers of best-selling painkiller Nurofen to remove its targeted range of painkillers from Australian shops.

The fast-acting Nurofen painkillers (ibuprofen lysine) for ailments such as period pain, migraine and tension headache contained exactly the same product, but were packaged differently.

Targeted painkillers

We don’t have those exact products in the UK, but our own investigations have found similar goings on. You might think that Nurofen Migraine Pain and Nurofen Tension Headache caplets would target your migraine or tension headaches respectively, but you’d be wrong. Ibuprofen can’t target pain in specific body parts.

Nurofen Migraine Pain and Nurofen Tension Headache are exactly the same as each other. They’re also identical to Nurofen Express caplets (available until recently), which can be as much as 2p cheaper per caplet.

Nurofen defends the sale of targeted painkillers, saying that they can help consumers choose the right one.

Generic painkillers

Shopping around can also pay dividends, as well as careful scrutiny of the packaging. Most leading pharmacies and supermarkets also sell generic versions of fast-acting ibuprofen, at as little as a third of the cost per tablet of Nurofen. They’re not identical to the Nurofen tablets, but they do contain the same active ingredients (342mg ibuprofen lysine).

We found 14 products that are all identical to each other, ranging from 8p a tablet at Wilko to 20p per tablet at Boots and Superdrug. They are variously sold as ‘migraine relief’, ‘period pain relief’, ‘express pain relief’ and ‘rapid pain relief, but are actually made at the same production site (labs) to exactly the same formulation.

If you examine the fine print, you’ll find all these products carry the same marketing product licence number. This means that they’re the same, but the licence allows them to be sold under different names.

So you can ignore targeted marketing if you’re clear you’re taking the right ingredient and dose. For example, a man taking Feminax Express – marketed for period pain – will simply be getting 342mg of ibuprofen lysine!

I’ll leave you with one interesting nugget though – there’s a big placebo effect when it comes to medicines. The higher the cost of the painkiller you take and the nicer the packaging, the better the product works on people who take it, even when we know we’re taking a placebo.

Do you agree that we don’t need to buy targeted painkillers? Do you always buy generic and cheap painkillers?

Useful links

The health products you don’t need

Comments
Member

I have always bought the cheap generics. And I am very pleased the Australian ACCC has acted in this robust way. Confusing consumers is not generally useful to consumers so one wonders why apparently no one in the UK has taken it up. Are other EU countries equally keen for confused customers.? Perhaps a quick ring around to the other EU consumer bodies would be interesting : )

BTW I accept the placebo affect though I know that many here have argued vociferously against it. And trying to get people to accept the anti-placebo effect is an even bigger stretch.

Member

Yet another example of big business ripping us off. Trust non of them

Member

I don’t buy many painkillers but always go for generic ibuprofen. I always check for a PL (product licence) number and buy a brand that I have heard of. I don’t know if any of the painkillers on sale are counterfeit, but having learned that there are companies that substitute oregano for cheaper herbs, I begin to wonder what I am buying.

Until Which? has a regular TV programme I don’t think there is much chance of putting Nurofen out of business.

Member

wavechange-
” painkillers on sale are counterfeit, but having learned that there are companies that substitute oregano for cheaper herbs, I begin to wonder what I am buying.”

I am not sure of the business nous of those criminals substituting oregano for cheaper herbs – perhaps its a Robin Hood thing. : )

” Until Which? has a regular TV programme I don’t think there is much chance of putting Nurofen out of business.” wavechange

Yikes don’t go putting ideas into their heads. I was watching Test.de appearing on a Stern/RLT programme where they were discussing the like of the Thermomix and the all-dancing Kenwood at around 1200Euro plus inferior machines. They were showing some of the tests and the final marks. If I understood German it would be even more useful.

Which? owns no testing facilities so it rather weakens the connection. I think there is also the problem that Which? is becoming more and more diffused and with commercial operations competing against advertisers commercial mainstream would be unlikely. For the same reasons the BBC is out. Launching an own Channel on Freeview or something simply not enough content – well apart from running the 1300? You Tube clips.

Member

What I have in mind is something aimed at a more serious audience, like BBC2 documentaries, rather than Watchdog which is intended to appeal to the masses. You make a good point about the commercial involvement of Which? and BBC TV, but Which? campaigns do get publicised BBC TV.

Member

I’d not like to see Which? getting into tv. The pressure of a good story would be too great for what should be an independent, balanced objective and fair-minded organisation. Coming up with regular “good” stories that would keep an audience would be beyond them without a large extra staff Goodness knows what it would all cost.

I’d like Which? to do its existing job better. It does not campaign in a neutral way in many cases, and it should. Maybe that is because it does not research in sufficient depth, or maybe it thinks it has to bias the campaign to gain public support.

I’d like to see in-depth testing, even if that means reducing the number of products. I’d like to see real help for consumers pursuing their rights. I’d like to see lobbying for more durable products, less throw-away stuff, longer guarantees, sensible paid-for warranties. This is where Which? used to be – or so it seemed. But what would tv do? By all means contribute to Watchdog when it has something worthwhile to say, but stay away from the tabloid sensationalist headline approach.

Member

dieseltaylor says:
Which? owns no testing facilities …
============
You can’t be serious.

Then what are all those Execs getting HUGE pay packets for ”doing” with MY Dosh?.
—————-
Does anyone remember what the difference was between being a :
Member of the AA
and a
Member of the RAC
? ?
————-
Please, mr managing editor, this IS relevant to this discussion, just stay that e-shredding machine.

Member

If the placebo effect is as strong as the intro suggests, it might not matter if you are buying chalk tablets 🙂 We pay for all the advertising that surrounds branded goods. When did you last see ibuprofen advertised? (just a guess!). Why should I fund the huge salaries of advertising agencies’ owners and employees?

Member

There was a program on TV about a year ago that said more or less the same thing.

The reason I buy Nurofen over cheaper ones is the coating. Nurofen has a nice shiny coating so the tablets slide down your throat and dissolve in your stomach. Cheaper tablets generally don’t have a nice shiny coating, presumably it is how they cut costs. They seem to get stuck in my throat where they dissolve and I get a nasty taste in my mouth to go along with any pain.

Once in Boots, they had run out of tubs of Nurofen so sold me their own brand as they said they were exactly the same. They might have the same effect but they did not have a shiny coating.

We find rubbing in Ibuprofen Gel works much better than tablets on joint and muscular pain.

Member

”They seem to get stuck in my throat where they dissolve and I get a nasty taste in my mouth to go along with any pain.”
————-
Drink MUCH more fluid (e g water) and according to the NHS on-line advice you’ll get rid of that problem completely – and save £££

Member

There are generic ibuprofen tablets that have a shiny coating, but as Josef says that answer is to drink plenty of water with them.

Member

Water won’t wash them down once they are stuck, just dilute the taste.

Member

Eating a piece of bread or other food will help pills go down.

Member

Yep, food is the only thing that gets stuck tablets down my throat !!!

Member

coat it in butter – works for getting tablets down the cat’s throat.

Member

You should ideally take Ibuprofen with a glass of milk or with a meal, ie not on an empty stomach

Member

The essence of drinking LOTS of fluids with tablets / caps / etc, is to by-pass the normal functioning of the part of the alimentary canal leading from the mouth to the stomach.
A hearty flushing with juice or water will make sure that these powerful and in some cases harmful to your gullet / oesophagus, get straight to your stomach.
The lining of your ‘tum’ and the content of the tabs are, in the main, compatible.
It’s unlikely that the polished coating on your tabs enable them to slip down, it probably stops them dissolving in your oesophagus tho’.
The advice from ALL Pharmacists, and BIG Pharma, is Drink lots of fluids with your tabs.
;-))

Member

”Are targeted painkillers a waste of money?”
Joanna Pearl, Principal Health Researcher
=================
I will argue that this is a poorly constructed ‘teaser’ article, written by someone who doesn’t declare their FORMAL qualifications to post ‘such opinions’ .

Let’s consider a FEW of the reasons I make such a claim, and conclude that this article should be:
Withdrawn, re-written, and re-submitted.

1.0….. With the responsibilities claimed by the author :
Principal Health Researcher
” … working on social care, disability and health projects and investigations from bra-fitting services to mystery-shopping the advice given by pharmacies.”
One would have expected some at least glancing reference to ‘formal’ qualifications to have been listed in their Biog

2.0….. Title :….. ”Are targeted painkillers a waste of money?”
This presupposes both that there are such things available on the shelf of a supermarket, AND
that the claims of some manufacturers have any validity whatsoever.
Perhaps at the very least:
””Are so called ‘targeted’ painkillers a waste of money?” ?

3.0….. There isn’t any differentiation made between :
Ibuprofen, and for example
Paracetamol.

Ibuprofen is after all, essentially an Anti-inflammatory, and aids pain relief by a different mechanizm from paracetamol.

4.0….. ”Painkillers” ?
Pharmacist that I know, and I know quite a few, would use the term ‘Pain relief’.
Neither Pharmacists, nor BIG Pharma, claim that products available on supermarket shelves are Painkillers.
Once one adopts the MC ** language of the marketeers one is on a loosing wicket. [Vide Orwell’s Newspeak.]

5.0….. Where, from Which?’s Principal Health Researcher, is there ANY hint of a caution concerning the use of pain relief tabs, or a link to standard cautionary advice.

I M O this ‘teaser’ article is NOT a Which? Best Buy
I vote it a Which? ”Read with Great Caution.”
Better still:
”Please re-write, and re-submit.”
———–
MC ** = Not PC, but Market Correct.
————

Member

Have a look at the related article on page 26 of the January magazine, Josef. It briefly explains the types of painkiller available over-the-counter and recommends that we ask the advice of the pharmacist.

Member

I’ve been aware of this issue for years as I’m sure many of the previous posters have been. I’m only surprised that its the Australians that have actually bothered to do something about it, good for them. Maybe our under resourced Trading Standards should be asked to pass judgement.

Member

+1

Member

Hello everyone, an update for you:

“The ASA is now investigating 12 complaints about a television advert for Nurofen Express, examining whether the advert was misleading because it implies that the product directly targets muscles in the head.

“It is also looking into whether viewers were misled by the claim that the Nurofen Express “gives you faster headache relief than standard paracetamol or ibuprofen”.

“An ASA spokesman said: ‘We received the complaints in February and launched an investigation in March. This is a complex case and our investigation is ongoing. The advertiser is providing evidence to substantiate its claims, we’re carefully assessing that and we’ll publish our findings in due course.’

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/12051046/ASA-probing-misleading-painkiller-complaints-at-makers-of-Nurofen.html

And if you’re a Which? member you can read our full investigation into ‘targeted’ painkillers in the January 2016 issue of Which? magazine.

Member

Patrick Steen says:
Hello everyone, an update for you:
———————–
Given my posting, around 30 minutes before yours, concerning the use of the word painkillers”
————————–
4.0….. ”Painkillers” ?
Pharmacist that I know, and I know quite a few, would use the term ‘Pain relief’.
Neither Pharmacists, nor BIG Pharma, claim that products available on supermarket shelves are Painkillers.
—————–
Why are you still using the un-modified, un-qualified term Pain – KILLERS.
My research suggests that not only are there not any such things on the market, but if there were, they would NEVER be released for general use.
Just consider this quotation:
”Without the gift of pain, everyday activities are fraught with danger. Unnoticed burns and ulcers can lead to permanent disability. Due to the inability to detect grit in the eye, blindness is a common consequence of leprosy.” The Leprosy Socy.

Member

josef, a good point. An industry I was in had to make products that worked even when attacked by vandals. Such products were never marketed as “vandal proof”, only as “vandal resistant” simply because however clever we were at, say, improving the strength, the vandal would always be one step ahead. You can make a speed camera as strong as you like on a sturdy pole, but a spray of black aerosol paint can make it useless.

Member

Noticeable that that which was once called the :
Police Crime PREVENTION service
some years ago [In the LAST century indeed] re-badged themselves as the:
Police Crime REDUCTION service.

Come on, Which?
”The times they are A-Chang – Um – ed” Tra La !
.

Member

+1

Member
Member

I would like to see advertising checked for false claims before it is used. At present, unscrupulous companies can make money from dodgy advertising before being instructed to withdraw it.

Member

wavechange says:
I would like to see advertising checked for false claims before it is used. …
————–

As my maternal Grandmother used to say:
”JosefKafka”
‘coz that’s my name, NOT ‘Josef’
”Lies are halfway round the world before the TRUTH has got its boots on.”

The only way to stop Lies is to lock them in a room, and only let the Truth parts out – as you suggest.

Member

I doubt the resources exist to monitor and validate or otherwise every single advert that appears in the UK. Nice thought but if it is not feasible then it would not help. We could extend that concept to checking everything before it is made public, from “Which?” reports to politicians’ statements.

Unfortunately maybe one answer – if only we had the courage to enforce it – would be to have punitive sanctions in place for anyone who fraudulently places misleading advertising, or makes significant unsubstantiated claims (not a lot of difference) in the public domain. The aim would be to deter those from so doing, rather than to extract money. The onus here would be on the advertiser to show their claims were genuine.

OK, it would not stop some misleading adverts from being produced but if the financial sanctions were shown to be imposed, and possibly advertising banned for a period, it may no longer be a worthwhile practice.

Member

If the companies have to pay to have their new adverts scrutinised then we would have less marketing and that could actually make products cheaper, since the consumer foots the bill for advertising.

It’s bad enough having dodgy advertising without finding reasons not to address the problem. 🙁

Member

In my view it is not about the cost, it is the sheer impracticality. Imagine the huge numbers of people needed to scrutinise, investigate and check claims. An enormous bureaucracy of people who who would be much better off with more productive jobs.

Guilty until proven innocent is not something I would like to see in any walk of life.

Member

The sooner we start the better then. We would not be having this discussion if companies behaved responsibly.

Member

We should not tar all companies with the same brush. Many companies, like many other institutions, do behave responsibly. Some don’t.

Member

We could make a start by focusing on the companies that have been the subject of complaints to the Advertising Standards Agency. We live in a sad society when even children learn not to trust advertising.

Member
DebbieG says:
15 December 2015

Adverts are a swizz, and while I think we all accept a certain degree of artistic licence in general, for medical products there really should be greater scrutiny and proper penalties for misleading vulnerable or desperate people. The Nurofen case might not seem too serious, but some of the snake-oil that’s out there…. I always buy the supermarket own-brand’s ibuprofen and never have a problem. Otrivine is as bad as Nurofen – I realised recently that their different products for congestion, sinusitis, allergy relief and just normal are all exactly the same chemical at the same strength. Some of them have different nozzles, but that’s it. So, I just stick with the cheapest. Same with hayfever tablets. Unless you react to a certain coating or ingredient, you could save a lot of money by using own-brands. I think I experience the anti-placebo effect – the satisfaction of saving money while getting the same pharmaceutical effect as the more expensive brands!

Member

WEll I reckon I have some right to post on this as I have spent all my life suffering from migraine headaches. NONE of the proprietary medicines were any good . The headaches I am talking about arent small “I am not feeling well headaches ” but devastating confining me to bed for long periods doubled up in pain ,sick ,shaking ,dizzy ,not eating or drinking only ONE medicine helped -after trying a large variety and that was the prescription medicine =Sumatriptan which chemically reduces the swelling in the blood vessels in the brain BUT it has side-effects -do not take if your heart isnt up to scratch or stroke /high blood pressure/severe liver problems /bad circulation I am not kidding here as when I started them my heart (and I have a good one ) increased in beats many times ,it also effects your taste . I have no option but to take them thankfully as I get older I dont need them so often. Another medicine are I got were eye drops after my laser eye operation (a success ) where holes were drilled in my eyes to allow water to escape re-leaving pressure -down from very high -35 to 13 . But the surgery to save money put me on a cheap generic which I have to take for life nearly burned my eyes out very sore all day . When I visited the hospital and told the specialist he was annoyed as I was blaming the hospital for them ,not so he said see your surgery . Boy was I angry !!!! this is my eyesight we are talking about not a broken leg flew up to the surgery and kicked up hell delivered an official letter of complaint to my GP that worked now on a quality propitiatory eye drops by Pfizer a well known US company .The difference was enormous no more constant sore eyes or double vision I have now asked for them to be put on my prescription. And the reason the cheap drops were so bad ?? straight from the specialist the chemical concerned is out of patent and multiple companies are “copying it ” BUT to save money preservative and other chemicals are now included so I was pouring preservative into my eyes the same type as I put in the water to help my guppies when they had disease> Let this be a warning to many out there ,this is no joke !

Member

I been taking many tablets but the painkillers prescribed to me are under various banners but are script only.
Co-Codamol, Kapak is a popular option and dear knows how many other brands and in store own brands I’ve seen but as long as it says 30/500 they’ll work. mostly.
On the script front there doesnt seem to be any problem but then we are getting what is prescribed to us and the seller is not trying to get us to buy their brand over others.
I think that such practices should be forcibly stopped as its no different to any other form of misleading folk
Something I’m not to sure about though is, why do people not read the ingredients surely that would have let the cat out of the bag years ago.
My wife reads nothing and I cannot eat dairy so I see the results all to often. Just because one supermarket particular food so does not contain dairy does not mean they all do not contain dairy. Its wonderful how any ways there are to get to the same goal. I suppose dairy produce is now very cheap so they try to get it into everything

Member

Dee my wife is also allergic to milk ,it is no laughing matter ,face swells up , throat restricts ,starts sweating profusely . She is allergic to vast amount of chemicals /food has been tested in hospital ,when she had kidney failure they refused to put dye through her as the allergic reaction could kill her and talking of injecting dye do you know there is cheap stuff and dear stuff ? .The cheap stuff makes you dizzy and unwell and has side-effects ,the dear stuff doesnt but is very expensive.

Member

Humans’ ability to tolerate cows’ milk is only about 7 000 years old – and was one of THE significant developments in the rise of humans in the predominant role they now play on the planet.
”In order to digest milk, adult humans need to have a gene which produces an enzyme called lactase to break down lactose, one of the main sugars it contains.” BBC
But a surprizing 5% don’t have that gene.
.

Member

Duncan,
Have you tried or had much luck getting milk-free medication?

I wrote to several pharmaceutical companies a few years back to see if there were milk/lactose-free versions of quite a few medications but didn’t have much luck as most of them use milk as the bulking agent.

Doctors were very reluctant to accept people could be allergic to milk until not that long ago but are still not good at prescribing milk-free drugs. Our local chemist is the most helpful in trying to find suitable brands.

Now if Which? were to lobby for milk-free drugs, there would be an awful lot of very grateful people out there.

Member

Hi alfa ,our own rural GP and staff arent “into ” allergies hence giving me eyedrops that I had a very bad reaction to just to save money .Its probably down to his patients who being country people dont hold the same view as my wife and myself coming from a large city where my GP and hospital were more “up to scratch ” with modern medical practice . This is no offense against anybody living in the country its just a case of lack of informed info in the community as opposed to a large population where information retrieval by word of mouth gives rise to a larger knowledge base.

Member

It’s important to distinguish between lactose intolerance and the much more serious condition of allergy to dairy products. The inability to digest milk sugar (lactose) is caused by having too little lactase (beta-galactosidase) and the symptoms are usually unpleasant rather than dangerous. Most adults with lactose deficiency get on fine with ‘lactose-free’ milk, which is ordinary milk treated with lactase to remove covert most (but not all) of the lactose into sugars (glucose and galactose) that those with lactose deficiency can cope with.

Lactose is commonly used as a filler in drugs, where the active component is very small – milligrams or micrograms. The amounts of lactose involved are not necessarily a problem for those who are lactose-intolerant. It would be better, in my view, if the pill producers chose a different filler.

Member

I was replying to Duncan’s reference to being allergic as one tablet might not have that much effect depending on the person but several tablets all containing milk can give the patient mild anaphalaxia or worse.

When a person has to take several tablets, it is no fun having a permanent irritated throat on top of other problems when this could be avoided buy using a different bulking agent.

Member

Sorry Alfa – I had not seen your comment when I posted mine.

Member

In my case Dairy sets off IBS symptoms and pronto usually in around 15mins but the cramps are very painful and the end results even more so. Hence we have a camper for hol’s.
I had that same type of reaction to aspirin when I was about 15.
Three times that summer before anyone caught on what was causing the severe outbreaks. Just as well I was young I think.
In my case the symptom of swelling starts in the lower lip and spreads quickly. Eyes nearly close if one doesnt close all together.
Body in a rash that is worse than adult chicken pox to bear. Swole up everywhere
Itch everywhere, the very soles of my feet and even the unmentionable places
Terrible effect it had on my skin
I avoid all salicylate like the plague, makes me cringe the thought of it.
And like someone here I think is was wave wrote about the terribly tiny writing on remedies it would be very easy to make a mistake.
Have a search for a video, udderly amazing. Your wife will be interested in it.

Member

Dee sorry about your symptoms I have spent a bit of my lifec studying people because I take an interest in people and their actions/motives . In this case over a long period I have found ,on average , speaking to a great many people and studying them that ,in the majority of cases those with severe allergies not attributable to a childhood of “overprotection ” from their mother so not becoming immune to germs was due to their racial heritage -IE- blond and red headed people were more likely to suffer from allergies of a permanent sort .This is a personal observation but the odds plied up in my favour over decades of checking .

Member

Very observant. I never watched but I do people watch on other fronts.
Personally I am swarthy and my Mum and maternal Grandma had eyes black as coal and my daughter the same. Near everyone else here including me has versions of hazel eyes. Blood group suggests an Asian descent although how that arrives I do not know.
Terrible stomachs in the family if I was to name the thing that mist occurs but it may be brought on by anxiety in later life I’m noticing only people wont admit to that one. Mental illness/problems are still bit taboo it seems. But I have eye’s. I can see.
I would say Celtic in origin now I know that the north of Spain and Portugal has those roots along with quite a area here.
I have a Spanish connection many generations back that I know about anyhow but up until maybe 10 or 15 years ago i had not realised the extent of the Celts
My mothers family goes back via Scotland to Brittany as best I can research.
I’ll feel at home in any Celtic area even I dont know the language . Its not the area or the weather that makes me feel at ease its the people and the music and the in built “whatever it is”.
Better stop this rambling before we get accused again of something we didnt intend

Member

DeeKay says:
Co-Codamol, Kapak is a popular option and dear knows how many other brands and in store own brands I’ve seen but as long as it says 30/500 they’ll work. mostly.
————
Co-Codamol = Codeine Phosphate Hemihydrate – Paracetamol
Once upon a time one could buy ‘Codeine’ tabs off the shelf – not anymore – 3-methylmorphine.
About the strongest off the shelf Co-Cod is 8/500 = not much use.
30/500 = a wonder pain reliever is (T M K) only on prescription, e g Solpadol (R)
.

Member

The main articles talk about Ibuprofen (including the generic versions) being 342 mg but not all of them are. Superdrug and Aldi sell 200 mg pills. Read the labels!!!

Member

banjo says:
The main articles talk…
————
A case for Unit pricing

Member

Shops are restricted to selling 200 mg ibuprofen in packs of 16 tablets. A pharmacist can sell 400 mg tablets without prescription. The British National Formulary lists 600 and 800 mg tablets as prescription-only drugs.

342 mg ibuprofen lysine corresponds to 200 mg ibuprofen.

Member

And you know why wavechange,dont you ? I cannot believe a website as responsible as Which has broached a medical subject without going deeply into it. I have worked in hospitals and seen the “evidence of this “”painkiller “” -paracetamol. Paracetamol is a hepatoxin -it DESTROYS liver cells ,even in small doses ,larger intake ,and I dont mean massive , results in liver failure . It is the most common cause of liver failure in the UK , if it is too late for an antidote drip AND a liver transplant then an EXTREMELY painful death occurs these are the down to earth medical facts . Have any of you watched somebody die of it ?? I have nearly the same as dying from acute alcohol poisoning. Your organs stop working you turn green/yellow you die moaning in agony over days ,why because for painkillers to work they need your body organs to intake the chemicals ,if those organs are dead then ? This doesnt make “nice ” reading but in a Convo like this it is vital to get this message across to the 1000,s of people who might commit suicide by downing those tablets –DONT !!!! many have and I have been in near tears with compassion for those dying this way. Just look at the UK suicide figures ,not something that the “authorities” want publicized.

Member

Acetaminophen is a nasty constituent and what a lot don’t realise is that it can take up to six weeks to die from Paracetamol overdosing. And, as my learned friend says, it doesn’t actually take a lot of overdose to achieve that. The worst aspect of a paracetamol overdose is that you remain fully conscious throughout.

All drugs have side effects, of course, and Aspirin (Salicylic acid) has its own, but I do feel that insufficient people are educated enough about the truly dire side-effects of paracetamol over-consumption.

Member

Duncan – Sorry but I don’t think Which? deserves the criticism. Joanna’s Conversation focuses on two main issues:

1. It’s not possible for an oral drug to target a particular site.
2. Generic drugs can cost a fraction of what the heavily advertised products do, the subject of earlier Convos.

There is a link to an article about unnecessary medicines and a brief mention of the placebo effect.

If you want to get a message across, it’s important to be brief and to the point.

Ibuprofen is used to treat pain, so I have no problem with the popular term ‘painkiller’ when writing for the general public. In my view it’s more important for the public to understand when to choose paracetamol or ibuprofen than knowing that the latter is best described as an anti-inflammatory drug. That’s not relevant to the introduction, but perhaps something that could be discussed in the comments.

The article is not about paracetamol, so why complicate it with a warning of the dangers of paracetamol. BTW, I’m surprised that paracetamol can be bought in a supermarket because of the danger you mention.

Member

Whenever I get something wrong with me that doesn’t require a GP’s attention I speak to a pharmacist and I think people should be encouraged to do that more often rather than picking their way through the over-the-counter medicines that might or might not be suitable for their problem and could conflict with other medication [how many people read the multi-folded tiny-printed information sheets included in the box?]. Pharmacists are just as highly-trained as doctors and, importantly, know the limitations of treatments so can advise people to see their GP if complications might present or if something more specialised would be better for them. They will also be able to supply the appropriate generic drug and recommend the appropriate dosage.

As regards Duncan’s point about paracetamol poisoning: this has been curbed substantially by the new restrictions on unit sales and packaging in blister packs [instead loose in jars by the handful], nevertheless in the UK it remains the most common agent of intentional self-harm with over a hundred deaths a year due to this cause. Given the enormous quantities of paracetamol sold every year the death rate is exceptionally low, presumably because most people are not intent on killing themselves, act responsibly, follow the recommended dosage, and stop taking the tablets as soon as their pain is relieved or they realise it isn’t the right remedy for their condition.

It is terribly sad that some people wish to end it all with a drug overdose, and perhaps do not understand the pain they will endure, especially as they might have passed the point of being mentally receptive to any intervention. And since it is against the law to recommend alternative means of committing suicide this statistic will probably remain.

Member

wavechange I had no intention of upsetting Joanna but dont you see where I am coming from I lived with people dying day to day when I worked in a hospital . To me this was real life it is very distressing to see somebody suffering so much from drugs that IMHO should be removed from the public use and replaced with another painkiller thats not so lethal . Would you give a Magnum pistol to a young person to play with ? thats how dangerous this drug is ,I am quite well aware that it was brought out to counteract the side -effects of aspirin which cause stomach bleeding to the extent of causing stomach ulcers and worse major hemorrhaging of the walls of the stomach allowing the contents to flow into other organs needing emergency surgery to save the patients life. Yes it helps in people with constricted blood flow /heart etc but this should not be hidden even if it were only a few deaths a year, each life is precious and public knowledge needs to be encouraged not hidden or in very small print somewhere.

Member

Hi Duncan – I certainly do appreciate the problem of paracetamol poisoning, though I have no first hand experience. As John has said, measures have been taken to reduce the risk. I would prefer to see paracetamol and other pain relief drugs sold by a pharmacist who can check its suitability for the condition, compatibility with other medication, and recommend that the person should see their GP if they are concerned about long term use or possible misuse. On the other hand, paracetamol – if used sensibly – is a useful drug and avoids the problem of gastric irritation. It is certainly within the remit of Which? to make an input on marketing of drugs but not, I believe, matters of whether drugs are safe for sale and use. I would rather debate what we are invited to discuss and hope that it encourages more people to get involved in the debate. We can make input to the NHS and the public can now report problems via the ‘yellow card’ system.

This afternoon, I was reading a Guardian report “Banned and dangerous weapons found for sale on Amazon.co.uk”. Though I am tempted to post this on the current discussion about Amazon’s online food sales to alert people to what their favourite retailer gets up to, that would be off-topic and not very helpful.

Member

My main concern about generic drugs is that the accompanying leaflet is sometimes in very small print, so important information may not be heeded. Perhaps it would be useful to standardise patient leaflets for ibuprofen and other drugs. It would help eliminate marketing nonsense such as reference to targeted painkillers.

Member

I thought this letter by Sean Carey in the Independent was nice:

“Richard Headland, editor of Which?, recommends that consumers should buy generic versions of common painkillers rather than high-price branded products whenever possible (“Exposed: the painkiller labelling scam”, 15 December).

“Good advice. However, a few years ago I was teaching consumer behaviour to second-year students in the business school at the University of Roehampton, and I was curious to explore their preferences for everyday painkilling products.

“The question I posed to the students was this: for an identical price you can buy either Nurofen or a generic product from a leading, trusted supermarket which is chemically identical and will have identical effects in the body.

“All of them stated that they would purchase the Nurofen, which they considered somehow superior to the generic version.

“The experience taught me, and hopefully some of them, about brand magic, the non-rational element that informs our consumer purchases, whether of painkillers, smartphones or foreign holidays.”

Member

An “identical price” is significant. However, brand is genuinely important – we do build up trust with experience from some providers. See how many “generic” products bought on the internet are either poor quality or dangerous.

Member

If you were going to sell counterfeit products, would you copy the expensive brand or the cheap generic product? Counterfeit Rolex watches seem to be more common than counterfeit cheap watches.

Which? has mentioned counterfeit goods, so I wonder if counterfeit ibuprofen and similar drugs is a problem in this country. From a quick web search, it seems that counterfeit ibuprofen is a problem elsewhere.

Member

“If you were going to sell counterfeit products”. I wasn’t thinking of counterfeits. But take batteries, say phone batteries for example. LED light bulbs. And so on.

Member

It would be interesting to know whether counterfeit painkillers are on sale in the UK, and if so, whether the brand or generic products are affected.

Member

I presume that none of the high price branded drugs is claimed to be superior to generic products. I wonder why.

Member

Anything with the word Anadin on the packet is a rip off. I buy cheapest Paracetamol and Ibuprofen in Asda for just over a penny a tablet. They say the placebo affect of paying more for a brand name and flashy packet makes you fell better. In my case the knowledge that I haven’t been conned makes me feel much better. Anadin Extra contains caffeine so wash down your para and ibu pills with a cup of coffee.

Member

NSAID’s (non steroid anti inflammatory drugs) are extremely toxic when taken in excess but a blessing when taken according to the instructions in the leaflets as Wavechange says. They are also beneficial when taken in the short term for acute ailments. You should always check with your pharmacist and your GP when prescribing alternative medication if you are already taking something else.

Having worked in psychiatric hospitals where patients are on quite a lot of medication such as mood stabilisers and anti psychotics, patients who suffer from headaches, back problems, colds or flu symptoms are always given paracetamol as prescribed.

For long term chronic conditions such as arthritis there is continuing research into ways of controlling pain without pills and the following website is quite comprehensive and informative.

arthritis.org. – Fight Arthritis Pain Without Pills. – Dorothy Foltz-Gray

For example, the use of topical medication such as gels and creams which tackles the pain where it hurts, bypassing the stomach causing side effects which have already been discussed above. Also the very controversial placebo effect. For example why does the brain still feel pain after amputation?

Pain, although unpleasant, reminds me that I am still alive (although no longer kicking!) and I have become more aware of it as I age (who was it that said old age is not for wimps?), but the more I focus on its presence the more it will hurt.

Which? I think have a role to play to prevent pharmaceuticals dressing up their packs of pills in elaborate boxes and deceiving consumers into believing they are getting something better than their standard generic medication – and what part does the regulator NlCE play in this scandal? Surely they should liaise with the ASA and instruct them to clamp down on this practice. Consumers need to be aware of what they are taking, after all, what price does one put on ones health? Life can be very tedious and depressing without it.

Member

I was speaking to a neighbour who buys a pain relief product containing caffeine, saying it works better. In jest, I said that that I’m OK because I drink a lot of coffee anyway. ☕️☕️☕️☕️

I must show my neighbour the article in the January magazine, which suggests that drinking caffeine might help make painkillers more effective. 🙂

Member

I wouldnt disagree that caffeine helps with pain but I am a life -long tea drinker I found early on I am allergic to coffee ,what some tests showed that tea can help in cancer prevention . As cancer “runs ” in my family and relatives it must work as “touch wood” (my head ) I havent contracted it so far.

Member

You can check on the absorbent affect of caffeine in pills on the following:

howitworksdaily.com. – Why Does Coffee Give Some People A Headache?

Don’t forget there’s also caffeine in tea and fizzy drinks as well as coffee.

I can no longer take caffeine any more due to too many side effects, including headache, tremors and sleepless nights. Guess I don’t need the stimulus! so have to stick to decaffeinated tea and coffee and all pills containing it 🙁

Member

Thanks Beryl. It’s interesting to read that caffeine can both cause and cure headaches. I have drunk a lot of coffee since my student days and I don’t suffer any ill effects. I don’t think I’m alone but I do know others that are strongly affected by caffeine.

Member

Here is a document giving advice on the labelling and packaging of medicines: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/474366/Best_practice_guidance_labelling_and_packaging_of_medicines.pdf

Section 7.3 refers to a code of practice, and there is some sensible advice to keep the marketing people in check regarding their claims. Unfortunately there seems to be no reference to the issue of the need to avoid making false claims about targeting of action of oral drugs – the subject of this Conversation.

Perhaps an update is needed.

Member

Oops! Should read “avoid all pills containing it!”

Member

Wavechange, you may notice a difference if you decided to leave it off, but no need to if it doesn’t bother you. I have friends and relatives that also thrive on it which only demonstrates everyone’s uniqueness. It’s a different matter of course when caffeine is put into generic meds.

Member

I see it as important that people are aware that some over-the-counter medicines contain caffeine, but if drinking coffee, tea and some soft drinks can provide caffeine, then maybe that’s a better way of giving the customer the choice.

Member

Good point Wavechange, a less expensive standard generic pill swallowed down with a cup of caffeinated whatever you prefer could save you quite a bit.

Still haven’t worked out how you manage to sleep after drinking caffeinated coffee though!

Member

I hope that inclusion of caffeine in medicines does not encourage their use to obtain the stimulatory effect.

My coffee intake is a habit rather than an dependence. I’ve drunk decaffeinated coffee for a week and not really noticed much difference. I’m not going to lose sleep about why drinking it does not keep me awake. 🙂

Member

Apologies for veering a bit off topic but at last I may have shed some light on it……..

YouTube.com – Scientists agree: Coffee Naps Are Better Than Coffee Or Naps Alone.

Interesting stuff, definitely not what the title implies 🙂

Member

There is no such thing as a targeted painkiller. They are distributed randomly throughout the body by the bloodstream and only a small percentage of the painkiller acts on the pain. A fair proportion is destroyed as it passes through the body.
There are only really 3 painkillers on the market that can be bought almost anywhere; aspirin,paracetamol and ibuprofen. Virtually all proprietary painkillers are a combination of one or two of these with,sometimes ,caffeine. Add on a trade name and the price over generic painkillers doubles and trebles. Add on a target such as migraine or period pain and price goes up again. The moral is take the GENERIC (unbranded) painkiller which suits you. Forget the drug company hype and save money

Member

daver- I take it you are talking about general painkillers bought from a chemist shop by the public ? Otherwise in the cases of clinical diagnosis and the issue of medicines issued by a hospital or GP for certain clinical conditions I know for a fact there are many which “target ” certain organic illnesses in human beings this is one of the benefit of modern chemical discovery ,not only that many millions of people worldwide are kept alive in a relatively “pain-free ” condition due to the action of those drugs . I should know I am on ones at this very moment and if I wasnt my “raison etre ” for living would be very much diminished .

Member
enteeen says:
19 December 2015

Which? has been critical of Nurofen products packaged according to the type of pain. In the magazine article it was pointed out how numerous are the products aimed at relieving pain and I doubt if many people would care to spend a significant amount of their time studying the detailed printing on so many packages to identify those that claim to relieve their particular discomfort. Therefore, I welcome a package that highlights ‘loudly’, the specific area of pain relief I need. It matters to me not a bit, that the same formula is contained in another packet marked for relief of pain elsewhere in the body. The point is that this type of packaging helps to locate the remedy you are looking for.

What is most certainly wrong with this new marketing strategy is the variation in pricng of essentially the same product according to the type of pain. It may be interesting to compare the proportions of Nurofen sales for each of the ‘designated’ pain locations, with their prices – have the manufacturer and/or retailers taken advantage of known or expected demands for pain relief for different symptoms in order to increase their margins?

Notwithstanding the above, the pricing seems to my mind, grossly unfair to consumers. Why should I pay more, or less, to relieve my headache than someone using the same product for back pain? Is this not an issue deserving the attention the appropriate consumer protection authority?

Member

Ibuprofen is sold without prescription as pills containing 200 mg ibuprofen. The versions containing a dose of 342 mg are ibuprofen lysine rather than ibuprofen. They still contain 200 mg ibuprofen but the extra weight is made up of the amino acid lysine. It is incorporated to make the drug more soluble, so it will act faster but presumably for a shorter time.

The important point is not to believe that the 342 mg dose contains more ibuprofen than the 200 mg version.