Over-the-Counter Drugs

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Over-The-Counter drugs (OTC) are usually medicines and easily available to buy from Pharmacists. Some of these products contain codeine which can cause addiction[1].


Three patients reported in the BMJ to be addicted to these kind of druges were taking Nurofen Plus, which contains a combination of codeine phosphate - which is an opiate - and ibuprofen. They all had gastrointestinal bleeding, a side effect of excessive ibuprofen use. One of the patients was taking 30 tablets a day - compared to the recommended maximum dose of six. Alone, codeine phosphate is only available on prescription. But it has been available OTC in low doses and in combination with aspirin, paracetamol, or ibuprofen for many years. Another reportedly addictive Over-The-Counter Drug is Solpadiene[2].

Growing OTC Market

According to The Times:

Thanks to constant brand innovation and niche-marketing, the UK's huge OTC painkiller market continues to grow. Income jumped by nearly a quarter between 2001 and 2006, according to the Proprietary Association of Great Britain, the OTC drug-industry body. The increase, from £406million to £500million, excludes “impulse outlets” such as newsagents and petrol stations, from which about 40 per cent of British consumers claim to get their OTC drugs. Anadin's maker, Wyeth Consumer Healthcare, says that last year it sold nearly 27 million packs of the pills, and adds: “If stacked on top of each other, they would reach over 56 times the height of Mount Everest.” Wyeth's 2006 survey found that for a quarter of women, carrying a painkiller in their handbag is as essential as carrying a mobile or house keys (though of course, women often carry them for period pains as well as headaches)[3].


Reckitt Benckiser | GlaxoSmithKlein

Addictive OTC Drugs

Nurofen Plus | Solpediene



  1. BBC News, Over-the-counter drug use concern, BBC News, 3-May-2007, Accessed 04-February-2010
  2. BBC News, Over-the-counter drug use concern, BBC News, 3-May-2007, Accessed 04-February-2010
  3. John Naish, Are we all addicted to painkillers?, The Times, 31-May-2008, Accessed 04-February-2010