October 16, 2015

A new survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults found that while the majority of consumers recognize the importance of reading the label of an OTC medicine when using the medicine for the first time, only 20% re-read the label of an OTC medicine they have used before.

Millions of Americans depend on OTC medicines to deliver relief for minor ailments. While most Americans surveyed report they understand the importance of reading the OTC label, many also report not paying consistent attention to it as a critical tool for the safe and responsible use of OTC medicines. The survey also revealed that 2 out of every 5 consumers consider the directions on the OTC label as just guidelines.

When broken down by age, gender and ethnicity, the survey results point to wide gaps in attitudes over the importance of reading OTC medicine labels. Key findings from the survey include:

    Women, millennials[2], African Americans and Hispanics tend to be more careful about OTC use.
        More women find it very important to read an OTC label (81%) and pay attention to restrictions (74%) than men (62% and 58%, respectively).
        While all age groups find it important to read the label on OTCs they are taking for the first time, significantly more millennials say it is still important to read the label on OTCs they have taken before (82%), whereas only 54% of older Americans over 70 agree.
        Almost twice as many African-Americans (60%) and Hispanics (57%) say they think it's very important to read the label on an OTC they've taken before, compared to Caucasians (33%).
        African Americans (72%) and Hispanics (66%) are significantly more likely than Caucasians (58%) to pay attention to active ingredients on the OTC label.

As a result of these findings, McNeil Consumer Healthcare has developed the "Every Label, Every Time" initiative to educate consumers about the appropriate use of OTC medicines, and the importance of reading and following all medicine labels. The website www.everylabeleverytime.com includes key findings from the consumer survey that can be shared via social media, as well as simple but important tips for taking OTC medicines safely.

"Whether it is the first time or the twentieth time, it is always important to read and follow the label for all medicines, prescription and OTC. As part of our ongoing commitment to promote safe and responsible OTC use, the 'Every Label, Every Time' campaign reinforces the simple tactics for responsible medicine use that we hope every consumer will follow," said Dr. Rajesh Mishra, vice president of Medical and Clinical Affairs at McNeil Consumer Healthcare. "The OTC medicine label contains information consumers need to use a medicine safely and responsibly, in addition to working closely with their healthcare professionals for guidance, and we hope this campaign further educates consumers of the importance of reading the label every time they use their medicine." 

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