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September 14, 2017

For Hispanic Heritage Month, an Important Health Warning

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Gastroenterologists urge caution when using over-the-counter pain medicines

Aimee Frank

Bethesda, MD (Sept. 15, 2017) — At a time when many Americans (39 percent) admit they could be overdosing on over-the-counter (OTC) pain medicines,1 Hispanic Americans are especially at risk — they are the largest consumers of OTCs, judging by their purchase patterns.2 According to the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), ignoring medicine labels and taking too much OTC pain medicine is an unsafe practice that can lead to serious problems including gastrointestinal complications. As the U.S. celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, 2017, it’s an important time to consider how the growing Hispanic population is managing important health issues. One in five Americans is Hispanic, and by 2050, the Hispanic population is projected to rise to 27 percent of the population. Currently, Hispanics spend 34 percent more on OTC pain medicines per year than non-Hispanics,3 potentially putting them at increased risk for overdose. “During Hispanic Heritage Month we are focusing on reaching Hispanics with an important health message—that taking more than the recommended dose of OTC pain medicine can be very dangerous to your gut health,” said Nelson Garcia, Jr., MD, AGAF, chair, AGA Gut Check: Know Your Medicine campaign. “Many people may ignore medicine labels, because they think taking more will relieve their symptoms faster, or that labels are just guidelines. But in reality, overdosing on OTC pain medicines can lead to very serious complications.”   

Know the Risks

Taking more than one medicine with the same type of active ingredient can cause harm, and possibly death. The two main types of oral OTC pain medicines are acetaminophen and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), which can be found in hundreds of prescription and OTC products. Many Americans take OTC pain medicine to relieve headaches, toothaches, muscle aches, and more.  Depending on the kind of OTC pain medicine, exceeding the recommended dose of OTC pain medicine can lead to:

  • Stomach ulcers.
  • Stomach bleeding.
  • Damage to the esophagus, intestine or liver.

Reading and Following Labels is Critical

To keep families and loved ones safe from the serious risks of accidental overdose, AGA urges Hispanic Americans to always read and follow their medicine labels and recognize when prescription or OTC products share the same type of active ingredients. Hispanic Americans with questions are encouraged to talk with their doctor, nurse practitioner, physician assistant or pharmacist to learn the right doses of medicine to take, what ingredients are included, and whether alternative options should be considered. Among the most important things to know: 1. Read the labelRead and follow ALL your medicine labels and do not exceed dosing directions.2. One product at a time Only take one product at a time that contains acetaminophen or an NSAID.3. Talk to your health-care professional if you have questions or concernsTalk with your doctor about your medicine use and other options for managing your pain. Find a downloadable infographic and other resources at AGA encourages patients and health-care professionals to share these and other materials with anyone who uses OTC pain medicine, especially loved ones.  It should be noted that the use of certain medications may reduce your risk of NSAID complications. As with all medications, it is important to discuss with your health-care professional. # # # 

About the Gut Check Campaign

Gut Check: Know Your Medicine is an educational campaign created by the American Gastroenterological Association, with sponsorship support from Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc., McNeil Consumer Healthcare Division, to motivate and encourage individuals to engage in the safe use of pain medicine. 

About the AGA 

The American Gastroenterological Association is the trusted voice of the GI community. Founded in 1897, the AGA has grown to include 17,000 members from around the globe who are involved in all aspects of the science, practice and advancement of gastroenterology. The AGA Institute administers the practice, research, and educational programs of the organization.    

Survey Method

The Gut Check: Know Your Medicine Survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Gastroenterological Association from Sept. 30 through Oct. 8, 2015, among 1,015 U.S. adults aged 30+ (“consumers”), including 479 who currently experience chronic pain (“chronic pain sufferers”), and 251 licensed gastroenterologists who are office- or clinic-based and see adult patients ages 18 years or older (“gastroenterologists”). The American Gastroenterological Association commissioned this survey with sponsorship support from Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc., McNeil Consumer Healthcare Division. For complete research method, including subgroup sample sizes and weighting variables, please contact Stephanie Wight.  1. 
2.  Nielsen Share of Wallet. A Look at Hispanic Spending on Consumer Packaged Goods. 2015
3.  Nielsen Share of Wallet. A Look at Hispanic Spending on Consumer Packaged Goods. 2015

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