By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Whatchamacolumn: Dosages and costs for pain medications

Life’s aches and pains may come from injuries or just normal wear and tear, and Americans continue to lead the world in use of prescribed and over-the-counter pain medications.

It can be a good news, bad news story, as pointed by Claudia Wallis in Scientific American:

“After tens of thousands of overdose deaths and billions of dollars in lawsuits, the medical establishment has gotten the memo on opioids. Instead of prescribing OxyContin or Percocet for acute pain, doctors are increasingly offering patients prescription-level doses of popular painkillers sold over the counter: acetaminophen (Tylenol) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil). Still, there is no such thing as a risk-free drug, and that goes for our most trusted painkillers.”

I’ll pause here for full disclosure: I am not a doctor! Consult medical experts and your own research for information about potential consequences from pain pill overdoses: ulcers, bleeding, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea or headaches; holes in esophagus, stomach or intestine; damage to kidneys or liver, and risks to pregnancy.

On a brighter note, in appropriately controlled usage, they work. Here are dosage recommendations from the Mayo Clinic, plus my own economic analysis, for three OTC pain medications taken daily by an estimated 35 percent of Americans.

Advil and Motrin are major brands for delivery of ibuprofen, usually in 200 mg doses. For mild to moderate pain, Mayo recommends 1,200 up to 3,200 mg per day in 3-4 equal doses. My online research reveals that 2,400 mg costs 75 cent for Advil, 68 cents for Motrin and 31 cents for medically identical generic ibuprofen.

Aleve is a brand providing pain relief from naproxen, recommended up to 1,500 mg per day in equal doses. That costs 52 cents daily with Aleve and 32 cents with generic naproxen.

Others swear by Tylenol or Excedrin, two brand products for delivery of acetaminophen. Mayo recommends up to 4,000 mg per day of acetaminophen, or 3,000 mg with Extra Strength Tylenol, again in equal doses spread throughout the day. Cost for 4,000 mg of that drug is 65 cents for Tylenol, 60 cents for Excedrin and just 22 cents for generic acetaminophen.

According to, “Acetaminophen and ibuprofen work differently in the body. They are also cleared from the body by different organs. This makes it safe to use them together for additional pain relief if one alone doesn’t do the trick.”

As for me, after one of life’s little bumps, I’m now spending an additional 42 cents a day with great results.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.


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