Over-the-counter medication label dangers
The words medication and drugs usually are assumed to refer to prescription medications. But here are some statistics from Lehne’s Pharmacology for Nursing Care, 9th edition (2016) that could change that.
60% of medications taken every day are over-the-counter
On average, there are 24 such non-prescription medications per home medicine cabinet
40% of Americans take an OTC medication every other day
Since 1970, one hundred drugs have been changed from prescription to over-the-counter status. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decides which medications can be sold without a prescription. About fifty prescription drugs are being evaluated for OTC sale.
Labeling requirements enacted in 2006 have paved the way for easier to understand information on OTC drugs as well as printing large enough for most people to be able to read. We still have a long way to go. In “Readability and comprehensibility of over-the-counter medication labels” by Hariprasad Trivedi, Akshaya Trivedi, and Mary F. Hannan (Renal Failure for 2014), forty nonprescription medication labels were analyzed and found to have “poor readability and comprehensibility characteristics.” Even more concerning, OTC drugs that were considered “high risk” were deemed to be the worst. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications were included in this group and noted to be among the most difficult for people understand.
The authors of this article included data to support their prediction that the segment of the population that is over 65 is growing rapidly and by 2030 twenty percent of the population will be 65 and older. By then, they’ll be 30% of the nonprescription market. Considering the decreased metabolism and elimination of drugs that usually accompanies aging, combined with the lack of clarity of such OTC information, adverse effects from these medications will continue to rise. Improved labelling can reverse this terrible trend. It is hard to believe the pharmaceutical producers will do this. Learning about OTC medications or not taking them are other options. Remember too that pharmacists are knowledgeable about these medications as well and can answer your questions about them. This is one situation where ignorance is not bliss!
This article is not intended to replace your health care provider. The intent is to make important information about medications available.