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Pain pills hurting the hip pocket

CHOICE says pain relief doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg

12 June 2014

When you’re in pain drug companies know you’re up for paying a premium if you believe a pill will relieve your pain faster or target a particular part of your body. In reality the only relief their targeted marketing claims provide is to the weight of your wallet. 

In 2013, Australians spent around $629 million on over the counter painkillers with branded products such as Panadol (28%) and Nurofen (22%) dominating the market.[1] 

“It’s clear the drug companies have been cashing in on your pain by tempting you to pay a premium for branded pills,” says CHOICE Head of Media Tom Godfrey.

“The fast and flashy names such as Zavance, Panadol Rapid and Optizorb dress up paracetamol and ibuprofen to get you to pay up to five times for effectively the same products.”

“Whether you pay three cents or 17 cents a tablet, the same dosage will essentially have the same effect.”

CHOICE looked at Panadol Osteo and Panadol Back and Neck Long Lasting. Both contain 665mg of paracetamol and are marketed as “sustained-release tablets, relieving pain for up to eight hours. Yet Panadol Back and Neck Long Lasting is almost four times more expensive per caplet than Panadol Osteo.

“Claims that the active ingredients in pain pills can target your ‘neck and back’, period pain or headache are at best hard to swallow.”

“But that doesn’t stop supermarket or pharmacy shelves being packed with numerous Panadol and Nurofen products that at first glance appear to be vastly different.”

“The best fast acting relief you can take is to look at the active ingredients on the pack. 500mg of paracetamol is 500mg of paracetamol, reaching for the pack with a flashy name will just leave you will a pain in your hip pocket.”   

CHOICE Tips

  • Look at the active ingredient and dosage you need
  • Don’t be fooled by claims about faster absorption
  • Most painkillers are absorbed within 15-30 minutes
  • If you want to buy a known brand, Panadol Osteo usually costs a lot less than regular Panadol
  • One standard paracetamol (500mg) and one ibuprofen (200mg) combined may work better than either product for acute pain
  • Ask you pharmacist about inactive ingredients

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