Recent research shows that more than 70 percent of Australian who take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), available over-the-counter at supermarkets, are unaware of their associated health consequences.

Painkillers can trigger a range of health consequences particularly in people who have existing, or a history of bowel disease, kidney problems, stomach ulcers or high blood pressure, according to Professor Terry Bolin.

Professor Bolin, a gastroenterologist and president of The Gut Foundation states that three quarters of the people in the study was totally unaware of the long-term or short-tern risk of taking this type of pain reliever. He adds that people who have stomach ulcers should not use NSAIDs like diclofenac or ibuprofen and that paracetamol would be the safer option for them.

According to the study that reviewed the feedbacks of 1,800 Australians last year, a total of 85 percent used over-the-counter painkillers. Among those who have been using a painkiller in the past month, 26 percent used NSAID and the number has increased from 11 percent, based on a similar study in 2001.

NSAIDs function by inhibiting the chemical messengers called prostaglandins, which trigger inflammation across the body, but also are vital in protecting the lining of the stomach, bowel and colon.

The study also found that 15 percent of NSAID users said they were taking the painkiller even though they have a medical condition that it can aggravate, or a potential negative interaction with another medication that they were on.

Professor Bolin said, If you are over the age of 65, if you have had an ulcer, blood pressure or kidney trouble, or bowel disease like colitis, do no take these medications without advice.

People who need pain relief should know that there a variety of effective treatments available over-the-counter and thus, they should also be taking the one that is right for their use.

Professor Bolin reminds people to read the health warnings on the label and consult with their physician or pharmacist to know the type of pain reliever they should be using.