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

17 May 2013

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17 May 2013 - As more than 10,000 runners prepare to race in Australia's largest half marathon in Sydney on Sunday, the Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI) is advising them to take over-the-counter pain relievers as directed, and not as a way to avoid or prevent pain.

"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 Dr Deon Schoombie, Executive Director at ASMI.

In Australia, NSAIDs are available over-the-counter at low doses for short-term use in self-limiting conditions. They are safe and effective for the temporary relief of pain and inflammation when used as directed, but like any medicine, they can cause problems if used incorrectly.

A study published last month 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 medications at higher doses than recommended.1
The researchers found that runners who used pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, diclofenac or aspirin, had a 13 per cent increased risk of adverse effects such as muscle and stomach cramps and cardiovascular events compared to those who did not take any drugs. Those taking more than the recommended dose were at highest risk. In addition, the use of pain relievers was not found to offer protection from pain during or after the race.1

Dr Schoombie 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.

"In Australia, 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."
Media contact: Michelle Sollitt-Davis - ASMI PR Manager
Ph: 02 9923 9410 | M: 0422 084 951 | Email: michelle@asmi.com.au

About ASMI: The Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI) is the peak industry body for the Australian self care industry representing consumer healthcare products including over-the-counter medicines and complementary medicines. ASMI'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 Australians at a reasonable cost. ASMI 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. www.asmi.com.au

1. Kuster M, Renner B, Oppel P, et al. Consumption of analgesics before a marathon and the incidence