Over-the-counter painkillers as effective as opioids, new study says

Patients who got an over-the-counter combo of ibuprofen and acetaminophen reported a decline in pain roughly equal to those who took Percocet and significantly greater than those who took the Vicodin or Tylenol 3.
By Delila James | Nov 07, 2017
A new report published in the Journal of the Medical Association (JAMA) provides evidence that a combination of commonly available over-the-counter medications works just as well as opioids in relieving acute pain.

The trial involved 416 patients at Montefiore Medical Center's Emergency Department in the Bronx, New York who were being treated for acute injuries, such as dislocated shoulders or sprained ankles, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The patients were randomly assigned to one of four groups. Three groups received a different type of prescription narcotic, either Percocet (oxycodone and acetaminophen), Vicodin (hydrocodone and acetaminophen), or Tylenol (codeine and acetaminophen). One group received a combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen the substances found in Advil and Tylenol.

The patients who got the over-the-counter combo reported a decline in pain roughly equal to those who took Percocet and significantly greater than those who took the Vicodin or Tylenol 3.

For emergency room patients with acute pain in the extremities, "there was no statistically significant or clinically important differences in pain reduction at 2 hours among single-dose treatment with ibuprofen and acetaminophen or with 3 different opioid and acetaminophen combination analgesics," the authors write.

The findings offer a ray of hope for treating acute pain as the United States tries to put an end to the epidemic of opiate addiction, which has led to more than 183,000 deaths since 1999, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

The authors, led by Dr. Andrew K. Chang of Albany Medical College in New York, write that their findings are consistent with growing evidence that a combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen, which have different pain-relieving mechanisms, outperforms opioids in many people.

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