America is a nation in pain. Over 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, and the annual cost of health care for pain (including disability days and lost wages and productivity) is estimated at between $560 billion and $635 billion. Consequently, it’s not surprising that 33 million Americans rely on regular use of ingestible nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to manage their pain symptoms.


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Inside This Issue - Opinion

NSAID concerns lead pain sufferers to external remedies

September 9th, 2013
by Jenny Kosek

America is a nation in pain. Over 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, and the annual cost of health care for pain (including disability days and lost wages and productivity) is estimated at between $560 billion and $635 billion. Consequently, it’s not surprising that 33 million Americans rely on regular use of ingestible nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to manage their pain symptoms.

However, concerns are on the rise about the negative health impacts of using internal analgesics.

One study suggested that ibuprofen users are three times more likely to suffer strokes than their non-ibuprofen-using counterparts. Another reported that between 10% and 50% of NSAID users experience gastrointestinal side effects, with 15% of those developing stomach ulcers as a result of using the drugs. The growing data about the dangers of ingestible NSAIDs has many consumers reconsidering their pain management options.

Chain drug stands poised to capture those consumers by offering alternate pain relief options.

With more awareness of the potential complications caused by ingesting NSAIDs, it’s not surprising that a growing subcategory in pain relief is transdermal pain relief patches. These patches either deliver a pain relief drug locally or allow the medication to absorb through the skin into the bloodstream.

Because some patches still contain NSAID ingredients, consumers must take care to follow any warnings from the manufacturer. Still, for shoppers concerned about complications from consuming NSAIDs, transdermal patches may reduce the risk of stomach upset and ulcers while still providing effective relief.

In addition, such products as the Salonpas Pain Relief Patch and Salonpas Arthritis Patch are effective for longer periods of time than pill-form pain relievers are, making them a more convenient option for many consumers. Pharmacist recommendations regarding the safety and ease of use associated with transdermal pain relief patches will help build sales in this promising subcategory.

For shoppers seeking non-medicinal external solutions for muscle and joint pain, hot and cold therapy patches are a comforting solution.

Thermacare is the leading heat therapy wrap product, and it has recently unveiled new cold wraps designed to eliminate swelling and ease pain without the “skin burn” associated with traditional gel ice packs. Because these products do not contain medications, they are safe for consumers who are sensitive to NSAID side effects, and they are ideal for shoppers taking prescriptions that may interact with NSAID products.

Another option for shoppers seeking nonmedicinal pain relief is braces and supports, which are no longer limited to old-fashioned elastic bandages. New materials, better understanding of the body’s pain response systems and revolutionary designs have made braces more comfortable and more effective than ever before.

For instance, carbonized charcoal and germanium are the secrets behind new Incrediwear Products from Star Nutrition. These breathable, high-thread-count supports use anion technology to naturally increase circulation and ease the discomfort caused by arthritis, diabetes and occupational and athletic injuries. Innovative external pain relief products such as these offer efficacy and safety to consumers seeking alternatives to NSAIDs.

As the research showing the potential dangers of NSAIDs mounts, more shoppers may begin seeking alternate pain management solutions. Drug stores can prepare for these shifting attitudes by stocking a variety of pain treatment options and by educating pharmacists and consumers about the alternatives available. Drug stores can stand out as pain relief destinations by encouraging pharmacist recommendations, using shelf signs to highlight non-NSAID products, and by educating consumers about the external pain relief products available to them.

The number of consumers experiencing pain is likely to grow as baby boomers become senior citizens and Generation X enters middle age, and these savvy consumer groups will demand options and choices for managing their pain. Prepare your inventory to meet their needs.

JENNY KOSEK is an industry writer and researcher with Hamacher Resource Group Inc., a research, marketing and category management firm specializing in consumer health care at retail.

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