Survey: Millions At Risk From Side Effects Of OTC Pain Medicines

Ed. Note: The following is a press release from Ipsos Reid.

February 1, 2006 --

Every day, millions of Canadians take over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers to help them overcome the physical challenges of chronic pain, including arthritis. The results of a national Ipsos Reid survey released today suggest that as many as 10 million people may be at risk for potentially serious side effects because they ignore label directions, misuse, over use or combine these powerful drugs.

While the risks are significant, the survey results indicate that almost half (41%) of Canadians are not very concerned or not at all concerned about potential side effects of these common pain relievers. OTC pain medications fall into two common classes, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
and acetaminophen.

"OTC pain relievers are serious drugs," said Dr. William Bensen, a rheumatologist at McMaster University in Hamilton. "According to this survey, many patients are not reading the product labels, nor are they discussing
appropriate use and potential side effects of these medications with their physician or pharmacist. This is putting Canadians at risk for serious complications."

OTC Pain Medication Misuse

Difficulties with these drugs arise when patients self-diagnose, self-medicate and improperly use them. Sixty per cent of consumers surveyed admit they read some but not all of the packaging information the first time they take an OTC pain reliever and 31% don't read the directions because they claim to know how much to take. The misuse of any drug can lead to serious problems.

- Four in ten (37%) have abused OTC pain medications by taking more than
recommended in at least one of the following ways:
- The next dose sooner than directed on the label
- More pills at a single time than recommended
- More than the number of doses per day as directed

Other medical studies show that OTC pain medications can cause side effects including kidney and liver damage and serious gastrointestinal (GI) problems including stomach bleeding and ulcers. GI problems can occur without warning or symptoms. Eighty-one per cent of patients hospitalized with serious NSAID-induced complications had no previous risk for GI problems.

"There are two important things at issue here," said Dr. Bensen. "First, sometimes people misuse OTC medications because they are not getting adequate pain relief, and they don't understand that there can be these dangerous consequences.

"Secondly, the benefits and risks of different pain medications will differ from person to person," Dr. Bensen added. "Doctors are equipped with the knowledge and expertise to put the benefits and risks in proper context
for each individual's situation. People should absolutely work with their physicians to decide on the best treatment decisions to manage their pain. That's the best chance they have to manage their pain adequately, effectively and safely. The risks - and the consequences - could otherwise be severe."

Drug Interactions

Many people may also be putting themselves at risk for serious drug interactions by not reading the packaging and discussing all medications they are taking with a doctor or pharmacist. When taking an OTC pain reliever for the first time, 32% of respondents do not read the information about possible interactions with other medications.

- One in four (26%) believes that if you take an OTC pain medication
according to the directions then it is also safe to take a
prescription pain medication.
- Four in ten (42%) think that as long as the OTC is taken according to
directions, they can safely take an OTC pain reliever while taking a
product for a cold or sinus condition.
- Only 44% of respondents discussed interactions with other medications
with their physician or pharmacist.

"From this survey, it is clear that a substantial portion of Canadians may be putting themselves at risk, either through lack of understanding or conscious abuse of OTC pain medication," said Andrew Grenville of Ipsos Reid. "The good news is that the survey also shows Canadians are open to information about pain medication safety and are quite willing to follow up with a healthcare professional - as soon as they know there is an issue."

About The Survey

Using the Ipsos Reid computer assisted telephone interviewing methodology, 2,000 randomly selected Canadians 18+ were interviewed between December 6 and 18th, 2005. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate to within (+/-) 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire adult Canadian population been polled. The margin of error will be larger within regions and for other sub-groupings of the survey population. This survey was sponsored by Pfizer Canada.

About Ipsos Reid

Ipsos Reid is Canada's market intelligence leader and the country's leading provider of public opinion research. With operations in eight cities, Ipsos Reid employs more than 300 researcher professionals and support staff in
Canada. The company has the biggest network of telephone call centres in Canada, as well as the largest pre-recruited household and on-line panels.

Ipsos Reid's Canadian marketing research and public affairs practices are staffed with seasoned research consultants with extensive industry-specific backgrounds, offering the premier suite of research vehicles in Canada - including the Ipsos Trend Report, the leading source of public opinion in the country - all of which provide clients with actionable and relevant information. Ipsos Reid is an Ipsos company, a leading global survey-based market research group. To learn more, visit

About Pfizer Canada

Pfizer Canada Inc. is the Canadian operation of Pfizer Inc (NYSE: PFE), the world's leading pharmaceutical company. Pfizer discovers, develops, manufactures and markets leading prescription medicines for both humans and animals, as well as many of the world's best-known over-the-counter healthcare products. Pfizer Canada employs more than 2,000 people across the country. Canadian headquarters of Pfizer Global Pharmaceuticals Group is in Kirkland, Quebec. Website at