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Sam Bauman: Over-the-counter drugs can be dangerous

Sam Bauman
For the Nevada Appeal
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More on pain killers.

Acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are the two main types of over-the-counter pain relief products. They come under different brand names and have different side effects. Overdosing by combining different products can cause serious liver damage since the label disclosure is often small.

From WebMD:

“So if one type of pain reliever doesn’t work for you, another might,” says Bimal Ashar, MD, associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. That leads to taking more than one OTC.

NSAIDs and acetaminophen can cause problems when not used according to the recommendations on the label.

“Nonprescription does not mean nontoxic,” says Edward Krenzelok, PharmD, director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center and Drug Information Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “If you take a higher dose than recommended or take it for longer than advised, there can be serious adverse effects.”

“People don’t realize that acetaminophen is in hundreds of pain relief products. It’s found in cough and cold remedies, pain relievers, and prescription medications,” says Miranda Wilhelm, PharmD, clinical assistant professor at the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Pharmacy. “So consumers often don’t recognize that they are taking two different products with the same ingredient.”

Manufacturers have listed acetaminophen on labels as “APAP” (the abbreviation for another name for acetaminophen, “N-acetyl-p-aminophenol”). The FDA has mandated new labeling that clarifies this. “But many people still have products in use with the old labels.

“If you take OTC pain relievers according to the directions on the label, then you should be fine,” Ashar says. “However, they are still medicines. All have risks for side effects and interactions with other medications.”

Try to follow these tips:

Read and follow the label. Always look for the active ingredient on the label.

Use them as briefly as possible. “Over-the-counter pain relievers should only be used for the temporary relief of acute pain,” Krenzelok tells WebMD. If your pain lasts longer than 10 days, “it could be an indication of a more serious problem, and you should see your doctor for advice,” he says. Never take more than the recommended dose or take pain relievers for longer than recommended.

It’s easy to overdose with listed OTCs even when following the label instructions. Combining Tylenol with NyQuil and another OTC pain relief can easier add up to more than 4,000 units of acetaminophen, which can mean trouble for the user.

Personally, I don’t use the OTC pills for my aching back. They don’t help me as much as my horizontal bar does. Even when my doctor suggested I take Aleve to reduce swelling of an old cyst on my left ankle I opted for naproxen, the generic version of Aleve and wound up with a bottle of 400 pills at almost no cost.

If OTC pills work for you, use and enjoy the relief. But remember longtime dependency can be bad for you, particularly you liver.

For the full WebMD article go here: http://tinyurl.com/l3ngx6l.

Opera’s back in town

The Metropolitan Opera series has resumed at the Galaxy Fandango Cineplex in Carson City, and it debuted this year with Verdi’s “Macbeth,” starring the operatic superstar Anna Netrebko as Lady Macbeth along with Joseph Calleja as Macbeth. Somewhere around 60 music lovers, most of them seniors, got the chance to see the wonderful Netrebko in all her musical and dramatic splendor. When she was onstage, she commanded it all gloriously.

The opera program, live video of an actual performance, continues on Saturday mornings at 9:55 a.m. with Bizet’s “Carmen” Nov. 1. Not an opera lover? The opera video offers better camera work than the NFL.

Carson Symphony ahead

David Bugli will be up there in tails conducting the Carson Symphony Orchestra at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26 at the Community Center, an event seniors can readily enjoy. The Symphony Chorus also will take part as will McAvoy Layne as Mark Twain (his usual role), poet Shaun Griffin and Native American singer Christina Vaan Geel.

The orchestra includes some 60 professionals supported by the Nevada Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Bugli dons his jazz hat as leader of the Mile High Jazz Band in concerts at Comma Coffee on Tuesdays once a month.

Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Nevada Appeal.