What Does the French Population Really Know About the Proper Use of Acetaminophen?

22nd June 2021

An in-depth understanding of current consumer practices and knowledge facilitates the development of best practices and new, innovative consumer products. In this summary article, we examine the results of an online survey conducted by Opinion Way for OFMA (French Observatory of Analgesic Drugs) and the ANALGESIA Institute, from December 18th, 2020 to January 4th, 2021 to better understand French citizen's acetaminophen (also known as paracetamol) usage.

Over the course of the study, researchers polled 3,026 French adults over the age of eighteen from across gender, age, region, and professional standing, to assess the general knowledge of the most popular pain & fever medication. Of those surveyed, the general demographics of acetaminophen users closely resembles that of the French population; 52% women, 48% percent men, and an average age of 49 years old.

The survey reveals some expected results, but also paints a concerning picture of the usage patterns and related consumer knowledge surrounding this popular analgesic. It also shows two potential avenues in which to introduce innovative ideas in consumer education.

Nine-out-of-ten people take acetaminophen at least once per year, mostly for the treatment of headaches
Broadly speaking, acetaminophen usage appears as one would expect of a common over-the-counter analgesic. More than 90% of the population reported taking it at least once in the past year, while 31% percent took it once per month, 15% every week, and 6% percent every day. Of those using acetaminophen in the past year, 66% reported using it to treat headaches, 33% back pain, 28% joint pain, 25% fever, and 22% dental pain, all reasonably expected applications from a medication with acetaminophen’s age and reputation.

Consumers are confident with self-dosing acetaminophen
Surveyed consumers also show considerable autonomy and confidence in acquiring and making dosage decisions. Twenty-seven percent (27%) buy it from the drugstore without a prescription, while only 13% of the population request a prescription from their doctor first before buying. Thirty-three percent (33%) feel confident enough to use the medication straight out of the cabinet without reading the directions, despite nine out of ten keeping both packaging and included directions. One-out-of-three women have taken or would self-medicate with acetaminophen for pregnancy pain, and almost 60% of parents say they have given acetaminophen to their children, 36% without referencing guidelines. All-in-all, consumers demonstrate a clear sense of comfort and familiarity with acetaminophen.

Yet, consumers have imperfect knowledge of all products containing acetaminophen and its proper use
Despite consumer confidence, survey results show inconsistent knowledge in surveyed population when it comes to identifying whether medications contain acetaminophen and selecting the correct dosage. Respondents correctly identified its presence more than three-out-of-four times in well-known brands such as Doliprane® (90%), Dafalgan® (80%), and Efferalgan® (78%), but nearly half missed it in other cold and flu brands and formulas, such as Fervex® or Actifed. While 82% give the correct maximum single dosage of one gram, only 8% think it is safe to exceed this dosage. One in two respondents know not to take more than three grams per day without doctor's supervision, but 17% believe they can safely take more than four grams in a day, and 7% even believe there is no maximum dosage if pain persists! Consumer confidence combined with ignorance creates potentially risky situations.

Slightly less than half of respondents are not aware that liver damage is a potential risk of exceeding recommended dosage
The danger becomes truly apparent when you combine dosage ignorance with the fact that only 54% of respondents are aware that liver toxicity is a risk from overdose. Ten percent even reported there were no risks associated with an overdose. Fortunately, 85% of respondents correctly identified the need to wait four to six hours between individual doses and 78% know not to take acetaminophen longer than five days without doctor consultation.

Opportunity for More Consumer Education
The broad public use of acetaminophen, coupled with a pattern of inconsistent safety knowledge, show the need for ongoing and improved consumer education. Currently, most French consumers learn about possible liver toxicity risks from packaging and enclosed informational pamphlets (40%), slightly fewer get their information from mass media (37%) and their general practitioners (29%), and the least check with their pharmacists (18%). This pattern of consumer sources of education shows that manufacturers have surprisingly accessible vectors with which to talk directly to consumers about proper usage through packaging updates and popular media.

While inconsistent consumer awareness around risks associated with improper acetaminophen use is certainly concerning, there are possibilities to increase safety and thereby improve consumer trust with manufacturers of this common medication. Cooperative action by global partners who are open to new ideas, holds the potential to reach a broad swath of the population both in France and beyond.

If you wish to partner with Sanofi Consumer Healthcare, please see our needs and propose your solution directly through: Innovatewith.sanofi.

Source: http://www.ofma.fr/paracetamol-sondage-opinionway-automedication/