Dr Oz: Most Misused OTC Drugs: Headache, Heartburn, Allergy & Multi-Symptom

By on January 19, 2011

Dr Oz did a show on The Most Misused Over-The-Counter Drugs in America.  Just because you do not need a prescription for Over-The-Counter Drugs (OTC Drugs), does not mean they are all safe.  Doctor Oz said that 200,000 people are rushed to the hospital every year from taking OTC Drugs in the wrong way.  Dr Oz did a count down of the Top 5 Most Misused OTC Drugs: Multi-Symptom Cold & Flu Drugs, OTC Headache Drugs, OTC Heartburn Drugs, OTC Allergy Drugs, and OTC Pain Killers.  You will also want to read the recap of this Dr Oz segment on #1 Misused Over-The-Counter Drug in America

Dr Oz: Why Are OTC Drugs Dangerous?

Dr Oz was joined by Nancy Nkansah, Pharm D and professor of pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco.  Nkansah said that there are two main reasons that OTC Drugs can be dangerous.  One, people Dr Oz Over The Counter Drugscome to the pharmacy and are very busy, so they do not read the active ingredient list or how to properly use the drugs.  Two, many people are intimidated and do not talk with their pharmacist about the right way to take OTC Drugs.

Dr Oz: OTC Drugs vs Prescription Drugs

Dr Oz asked what is the difference between Over-The-Counter Drugs and Prescription Drugs.  The truth is that many OTC Drugs were previously Prescription Drugs.  However, sometimes after a drug has been on the market for years, the FDA might decide to make a Prescription Drug into an OTC Drug, which is great for the consumer since the product’s price often goes down.  However, individuals must be more careful to make sure to take OTC Drugs in the right way since they may not be under a doctor’s care.  Nancy Nkansah said that there is a difference between men and women with respect to OTC Drugs.  Men have more muscle mass and this might make a difference in dosage, which is why you should always ask your pharmacist what the right dose of an OTC Medicine is for you.

Dr Oz: Multi-Symptom Cold & Flu OTC Drugs

One billion people every year buy 700 OTC Remedies to treat colds and the flu.  How do you know which OTC Cold & Flu Drug to buy though?  And could taking the wrong one do you more harm than good?  Dr Oz said that people often make the mistake of buying a Multi-Symptom Cold & Flu Drug, because people assume that more is always better even if you do not have all of the symptoms.  Dr Oz said that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and by taking a Multi-Symptom Cold & Flu Drug you are likely to have more side-effects than you would have with a medicine for a single symptom.

For example, if you are only congested, it is better to take a Single Symptom Drug that contains Phenylephrine HCI for Nasal Decongestion.  However, many people will reach for the Multi-Symptom Drug that contains all of the following active ingredients: Acetaminophen for pain reliever / fever reducer, Chlorpheniramine Maleate which is an Antihistamine, Dextromethorphan HBr which is a cough suppressant, and Phenylephrine HCI the actual nasal decongestant that you need.  Dr Oz said that as a general rule, you should avoid taking Multi-Symptom Medicine unless you have at least 3 of the 4 symptoms.

Dr Oz: OTC Headache Drugs – Acetaminophen

Dr Oz said that 45 million people have unbearable pain from headaches.  Which pill you take and how often you take it can be the difference between relief and relapse.  In case you missed it, you should definitely read the recap of the Dr Oz segment where he discussed the best (and safest) OTC Headache Medicine here: Dr Oz Headache.  Dr Oz said that Acetaminophen (commonly found in Tylenol, DayQuil, Excedrin, and other OTC Drugs) can be a great concern, even though its an OTC Medication.  For example, Acetaminophen is the leading cause of Acute Liver Disease in patients because they take too much Acetaminophen.  You should take no more than 8 tablets a day (which is 4000 mg of Acetaminophen a day).  If you have a headache, menstrual cramps, and a cold all at the same time (and take OTC Drugs for each condition), each one of these drugs contain Acetaminophen so you can easily go over the 4000 mg limit if you are not careful.

Dr Oz: OTC Heartburn Drugs: Proton Pump Inhibitors

Dr Oz said that 15 million Americans suffer from Heartburn Symptoms every day.  Now you can get even stronger medications Over-The-Counter without needing a prescription.  Sheila joined Dr Oz because she gets heartburn just about every day because she is a waitress and often eats dinner too late.  Dr Oz said that Proton Pump Inhibitors like Prilosec and Prevacid work by shutting off the acid production in your body.  One of the biggest problems with Proton Pump Inhibitors is that you can become dependent on them, and if you try to stop taking them you can get a rebound of reflux.  Dr Oz said that you should not take Proton Pump Inhibitors like Prilosec or Prevacid for more than four weeks.

Dr Oz: OTC Allergy Drugs – Antihistamines

Dr Oz said that 60 million Americans get allergy symptoms including sniffles, sneezing, scratchy throats, and watery eyes.  The side effects of OTC Allergy Medication can be huge, though.  Antihistamines can cause drowsiness, so if you take it in the morning and drive to work, it is just like driving drunk, hence the name Drug Driving.  Instead, you should look for non-drowsy allergy medications that do not contain Diphenhydramine HCI, an active ingredient in antihistamines that make you drowsy.

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