Skip to main content

Survey: Self-care access to APAP for pain relief important to consumers


WASHINGTON — Consumers want to maintain nonprescription access to the pain reliever acetaminophen, according to a new Alliance for Aging Research survey of 1,600 Americans ages 18 and over.


Due to concerns regarding misuse and unintentional overdose of acetaminophen, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has considered restricting access to some OTC medications containing acetaminophen, including the potential of requiring a prescription for products that are currently available OTC, the alliance noted. 


However, according to the survey:


  • 77% of those under age 60 and 68% of those over age 60 prefer consumer education to government restriction as a way to protect people from acetaminophen overdose;

  • 75% of respondents under age 60 and 70% of respondents over age 60 believe that the FDA should not change its policies to require a doctor’s prescription to buy extra-strength Tylenol or an equivalent store brand;

  • 52% of those under age 60 and 45% over age 60 believe that requiring a prescription will make it more difficult to access safe pain medications;

  • Only 11% of those under age 60 and 19% over age 60 would go to a doctor for an acetaminophen prescription; and

  • 40% of those under age 60 and 30% of those over age 60 would stop using Tylenol or an equivalent store brand and change to a different pain reliever. This is significant because some of these respondents reported having been diagnosed with conditions in which other pain relievers may not be appropriate, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, renal dysfunction, ulcers, acid reflux or GERD. 

“The aging of our population means that more Americans will be faced with persistent pain,” stated Cynthia Bens, VP public policy for the Alliance for Aging Research. “Potential barriers to OTC medication access may have unintended health consequences for seniors who rely on OTC pain relievers that contain acetaminophen to reduce their pain and maintain their quality of life.” 


The survey also offered insights into the amount of pain people experience. More than 18% of respondents age 60 and over encounter bad or severe pain, and more than 37% have daily pain. As many as 70% of this age group uses OTC pain medication. And for those under age 60, bad or severe pain is experienced by 15%, while 25% experience daily pain. And 81% of this age group uses an OTC pain medication.


In 2009, the alliance conducted a similar survey of adults age 60 and over. The results from the original survey showed that attitudes regarding access and restrictions to OTC pain relievers among those over age 60 have not changed. In both 2009 and 2014, 68% of respondents said they mostly use pain relievers that can be bought over-the-counter. In addition, an increasing number of respondents indicated that they believe it would be a bad idea for the FDA to change the policy to require a doctor’s prescription for extra-strength acetaminophen (66% in 2009 and 70% in 2014).


“Over the past five years, consumer views have been consistent — people support current availability of acetaminophen-containing OTC products and don’t want that access further restricted,” Bens said.


The survey results were compiled from landline and cell phone interviews with 1,600 Americans ages 18 and above. Results were divided between two age groups: 18-to-59 and those over the age of 60. The survey was conducted by Clarus Research Group with support from McNeil Consumer Healthcare. 







This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds