Three types of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be obtained both over the counter (OTC) and by prescription in the United States. OTC NSAID use is not recorded in prescription claims databases; this might lead to differential misclassification of NSAID exposure status in studies that use computerized pharmacy databases to study NSAID use.
To evaluate characteristics of OTC versus prescription NSAID users
This analysis is set within the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) study; a prospective cohort study of 6,814 adults from 4 ethnic groups (European descent, Asian, African-American and Hispanic) with a mean age of 62 years. The cohort was restricted to those who initiated NSAID use (aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen) during follow-up. We compared information about age, sex, ethnicity, body mass index, smoking, diabetes, medication use, education, income, health insurance status and exercisebetween groups.
OTC NSAID use was prevalent at baseline (25% Aspirin, 9% Ibuprofen, 2% Naproxen). Compared to prescribed NSAID use, OTC NSAID use was lower for users of non-European descent for all classes: aspirin (p<0.0001), ibuprofen (p<0.0001) and naproxen (p=0.0094). For aspirin, differences were seen for male gender (Relative Risk (RR):0.92; 95%(Confidence interval) CI:0.86–0.98), use of lipid lowering drugs (RR:0.88; 95% CI: 0.80–0.96), low income (RR:0.89; 95%CI:0.81–0.97), and participants one standard deviation above average in intentional exercise (RR:1.03; 95%CI:1.01–1.05).
OTC NSAID use is prevalent in an older multi-ethnic population and OTC users differ from prescription NSAID users. Caution should be exercised when using prescribed NSAIDs as a proxy for NSAID use.