More Topical Issues

Yesterday, I wrote about the problem of people drinking their Benadryl Itch-Stopping Gel instead of using it - as designed - on the skin. As I pointed out this is not a healthy choice. And, as the FDA noted in an official warning, we are always better off if we actually - duh - read product labels.

On the other hand, not everyone is a total geek label reader like, um, me. There's always going to be people who just make an assumption based on familiar Benedryl name, especially as a couple of readers pointed out yesterday, the Benadryl gel bottle does resemble the containers used for liquid medicines:

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Further, Donald Riker, the editor-in-chief of OTC Product News, an independent consumer health publication, sent me a link to their analysis which makes some excellent points - just possibly smarter than mine - about the manufacturer's (Johnson & Johnson) long-term failure to accept responsibility or modify the packaging and warning labels until ordered to this month by the FDA.

In his analysis, Riker points out that such accidental poisonings have been reported for a full decade, some 121 have been reported since 2001, and that while Johnson & Johnson is adding new labels that say "for use on skin only", as demanded by the government, it would be even better to just repackage the gel as a roll-on or in a tube.

"Before long J&J's new logo will be the skull & crossbones in the eyes of consumers," Riker writes. It's a great line, isn't it? Wish I'd thought of it myself.

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one reason sellers are so happy with these type of bottles is that it's nearly impossible to get all of the product out of the container... so in spite of buying the supersize, bargain bottle you wind up going back to buy more more often

By hansragnar (not verified) on 14 May 2010 #permalink

I agree packaging is important; particularly, as you say, with a product known to its users as one typically ingested.

I doubt I would swallow anything without reading labels, but my kids did recently brush their teeth with sunscreen while visiting their grandparents--mainly because the container was located where they expected to find toothpaste, and also because the shape of container was similar to their regular toothpaste. Happy to say their teeth did not suffer from sunburn that day.

I'm torn by my wish to keep this a species that reads the label. I'm thinking drinking a topical isn't such an unnatural selection. I might be arguing against my own fitness though.

Reading labels can be fun. I was looking at same brand tubes, one for athletes foot the other for jock itch. The labels were identical, but one tube was $2 more than the other. I bought the cheaper tube regardless of what I needed it for.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 15 May 2010 #permalink

Yes, reading the labels is good. But bear in mind that, almost by definition, the people taking these medications are not entirely well. (Some of them are children, whose parents should read the labels; many are adults, and some live alone.)

I am reminded of the time that I was on a prescription steroid for eye problems and then developed a very bad headache at some unpleasant hour of the night. Bad enough that I couldn't sleep. We called the doctor in the morning and were told that tylenol would be okay. So, my partner went to the nearest store and brought back a small package of tylenol.

OK, visualize this: you are having vision problems and have a painful headache. The package insert is in 8 point type. It's in Spanish, which you studied in high school, but about all the medical vocabulary you can recall is "me duele la cabeza." The partner's eyes are better, but he doesn't know any Spanish.

We recognized enough to feel safe taking it; but think about someone with as much English as I have Spanish, grabbing the package that says "benadryl" (a familiar brand name) and swallowing their usual dose.