By Johnathan Silcock in The Conversation.
Simple painkillers (such as aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen) are widely bought over the counter and prescribed by doctors. But the stark truth is that most of these medicines don’t work very well.
Professionals can’t be satisfied advising consumers and patients to take ineffective medicines. And consumers and patients can’t be happy that they’re spending cash or NHS resources on something that doesn’t do the job. But those with minor ailments who opt for such drugs aren’t necessarily wasting their money – and may well be saving yours by reducing the burden on health services.
An evidence-based approach to pain relief must consider realistic alternatives. Trials demonstrate that simple over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers, such as paracetamol for low back pain and aspirin for episodic tension-type headaches in adults, work no better than placebo. But in practice, we need to consider how harmful this really is – and what people would do if they weren’t popping their favourite pills.
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