The Risks and Benefits of OTC Anti-Inflammatory Medications


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Although over the counter anti-inflammatory medicines have been used frequently, not all people know exactly the real risks and benefits of using these drugs. Here is the information that will help you understand this further.

Over the counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory medicines are actually nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), but unlike the prescription NSAIDs, these ones are available over the counter and can be bought in the local pharmacies or drug stores without doctor’s prescription. Aspirin, Ibuprofen (Nuprin, Rugen, Medipren, Advil, Motrin), Ketoprofen (Actron, Orudis), and Naproxene (Naprosyn, Aleve) are some of the OTC NSAIDs.

Most people prefer to use these OTC drugs because they are perceived to be harmless as compared to their steroidal counterparts. This belief stems from the fact that the FDA permits OTC drugs sale because they can be safely used without seeking doctor’s guidance.

The Benefits

NSAIDs are often used for treating condition related to pain and as well as inflammation. Besides they act effectively as pain relievers, they are able to reduce inflammation effectively too. While the over the counter (OTC) medicines are helpful in treating fever and pain related to tendonitis, sprains, strains, dental problems and other injuries, the prescription drugs are used for more debilitating conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and severe pain.

The Risks

Besides those benefits, over the counter anti-inflammatory medications do have potential risks. However, the OTC sale under certain restrictions is permitted as the benefits of using them outweigh the side-effects. Also, the recommended dose are far below the levels that would need a prescription, e.g. dose of OTC ibuprofen anti-inflammatory is 200mg. For higher doses, you will need a prescription.

Their uses are recommended only for short term measures. You will definitely be better off consulting your physician if you are going to take any of these drugs for a longer duration and more frequently.

Regular use of any of these medicines can bring adverse effects because the cumulative quantity keeps on increasing with longer and frequent use as also the size of the dosage. Such uses have been linked to adverse effects on the stomach and digestive system like ulceration, intestinal bleeding, etc.

Person suffering from following conditions should consult their physician before opting for these seemingly harmless OTC anti-inflammatory drugs:

  • There is a complication related to kidney or liver function
  • Having experienced ulcerative or bleeding intestinal problems or suffering from Crohn’s disease
  • Taking blood thinners like Coumadin, heparin, aspirin, having a low platelet count
  • Having any heart related health issue
  • Pregnant or likely to become pregnant, or breast feeding
  • Someone with frequent alcohol consumption
  • Person who is over the age of 65

Even under normal conditions, it is advisable to follow the recommended doses besides ensuring that the use is only for a short duration. If any side-effects during this time, they can be repaired by the body once you stop taking it. It is necessary to avoid a situation where you may need help of your physician.

For arthritic patients, there is a tendency to overuse the over the counter anti-inflammatory nonsteroidal drugs because of recurrent inflammation and pain. They need to explore other avenues such as natural treatment, exercises, diet, etc., which can reduce their dependence on these medicines.

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