A report presented Wednesday at the American Gastroenterological Association says patients are increasingly aware of health risks from improper use of prescription and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory, or NSAID, drugs, but a goodly number of patients still use the over-the-counter drugs improperly.
The study compared data from separate consumer studies taken in 1997 and 2003.
In 1997, 28% of consumers admitted to taking more than the recommended dose of over-the-counter NSAIDs, while just 18% of consumers surveyed said they were concerned about side effects.
By 2003, 44% of consumers said they took more than the recommended dose of over-the-counter NSAIDs, even though 59% of consumers responded that they were concerned about side effects.
"Yes, they're concerned about the side effects, but at the same time they're willing to risk the side effects, is my interpretation of these numbers," said gastroenterologist Byron Cryer, M.D., lead author of the report.
The 2003 survey also asked people if they took OTC versions of these medications with prescription NSAIDs. One in three surveyed said yes.
The worry, of course, is that physicians treating this 33% are unaware that these patients, particularly at-risk patients, are taking nonprescription medications and undermining the physicians' risk reduction strategy, he said.
"I think because they are so widely available people consider it's okay to take them without consulting their physician," said Cryer, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas who is a member of the Food and Drug Administration's advisory committee for gastrointestinal drugs.
The takeaway for physician leaders is to remind their colleagues to keep questioning patients about the use of over-the-counter medications, Cryer said. "It's a huge educational task."
Cryer is a graduate of the Baylor College of Medicine and did his internship and residency at Baylor. He completed his fellowship in gastroenterology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School.