November 7, 2013

Surprising Risks of Over the Counter Pain Pills.

In 1999, The New England Journal of Medicine wrote a shocking article citing the risks of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like Aspirin, Advil, Motrin, Ibuprofen, Celebrex and more—but no one raised an eyebrow!

The article starts by telling us not to worry, but goes on to say: “Although NSAIDs are generally well tolerated, adverse gastrointestinal events occur in a small but important percentage of patients resulting in substantial morbidity and mortality. (1)”

Let’s take a look at the statistics they cite and you can decide for yourself!

Oh yes, don’t forget that this class of drugs called NSAIDs makes up 70 million prescriptions and 30 million OTC (over-the-counter) tablets sold each year in the US. (1)


  • It is estimated conservatively that 16,500 NSAID related deaths occur just with patients with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis every year (a similar number to those who die from acquired immunodeficiency). (1)
  • 103,000 patients are admitted to hospitals annually for gastrointestinal complications due to NSAIDs. (1)
  • The annual hospital costs due to NSAID complications are 2 billion per year.
  • A minimum of 10-20 percent and a maximum of 50 precent of patients who take NSAIDs have dyspepsia (stomach discomfort). (1)

While NSAIDs may offer benefits when using them on occasion, regular use seems to be a serious concern. In one study, small intestine and bowel erosion was noticed in 62 percent of the NSAID users compared to five percent of non-users. (2)



1. Wolfe MN, Lichenstein DR, Singh G. Gastrointestinal toxicity. New England Journal of Medicine, 1999; 340 (24):1888-1899

2. Ackerman CP, Blower AL. NSAID and life-threatening complications. GUT, 1987; 28: 527-532


Like elephant health & wellness on Facebook.

Editor: Catherine Monkman

{Photo: Flickr.}

Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Dr. John Douillard  |  Contribution: 29,620