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OTC pain relievers for relieving pain, not pain prevention

OTC pain relievers are for relieving pain, not for pain prevention

30 October 2013 - As more than 11,000 runners prepare to race in one of New Zealand’s largest marathons and half marathons in Auckland on Sunday, consumer healthcare products industry body, the New Zealand Self Medication Industry (SMI), is reminding them to take over-the-counter pain relievers as directed, and not as a way to avoid or prevent pain before a big race.

“When you have inflammation and pain from an injury or after a long run, non-prescription pain relievers, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), can be effective for short term relief. They should not be taken before a race as a way to prevent pain or muscle soreness,” said Tim Roper, SMI executive director.

A study published earlier this year in BMJ Open looked at pre-race use of pain relievers among runners at the 2010 Bonn Marathon in Germany. From almost 4,000 runners surveyed, half (49 per cent) said they took them to curb or ward off pain during the race, and most reportedly used the medication at higher doses than recommended.

The researchers found that the use of pain relievers did not offer protection from pain during or after the race.

Mr Roper added that regardless of the study’s limitations – the small sample size and confounding factors that were not investigated, such as body mass index and use of other medicines – it is good advice not to take NSAIDs prior to the event to prevent or reduce pain. This advice, however, does not extend to those with chronic conditions who may be using regular OTC pain relievers under their doctor’s advice.

“In New Zealand, labels on over-the-counter NSAIDs include warning statements, to assist consumers in their selection and use of these products. Among other things, these warnings advise consumers with certain existing health problems or who are taking other medications to first seek the advice of their healthcare professional.

“Consumers are reminded to strictly follow all the directions on the label and, if the pain or other symptoms persist, to consult a doctor or pharmacist.”

About SMI
The New Zealand Self-Medication Industry Association Inc (SMI) is the national trade association representing manufacturers, marketers and distributors of a wide range of products, generally available "over-the-counter" (OTC) and mainly for use in self-medication by New Zealand consumers. SMI’s mission is to promote better health through responsible self-care. This means ensuring that safe and effective self-care products are readily available to all New Zealanders at a reasonable cost. SMI works to encourage responsible use by consumers and an increasing role for cost-effective self-medication products as part of the broad national health strategy.


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