What does 'extra strength' really mean?


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – What do you reach for when you have a really bad headache? Super strength pain meds that are supposed to make you feel better, faster?

So what do you buy? Labels that say 'extra strength', 'maximum strength' or 'longer lasting'?  Picking one of these is enough to make your headache even worse. So what exactly do these terms mean?

According to pharmacist Gary Roberts, they could all really mean the same exact thing. He said, "Those are just marketing terms to try and catch your eye, so you think that their product is better than another."

A recent Consumer Reports article revealed that any products like these basically just contains more of the active ingredient. For example, Extra Strength Tylenol has more of the the active ingredient acetaminophen.  If you take too much, you could exceed the daily dose. Or you may have a reaction because your not used to something so powerful.

"Especially you mentioned acetaminophen," Roberts said. "We are finding out more and more each day that we've been taking too much of it all along and it causes liver damage in the long term.So in a case like that it can be very serious. It can interact with other medicine."

Roberts said the best thing to do before you buy any new, over the counter medicine; walk to the back of the store and ask the pharmacist what's best for your symptoms.

"That's always best we think, and it really is because nowadays it's all about advertising and maybe the word gimmick is a little too much but again, they're trying to get your dollar," Roberts explained.

Something else you need to be leery of, 'combo medicines'.  For example, cold and sinus medications.  Make sure you read the label carefully and don't take aspirin or other pain relievers in addition to these medicines. They may already contain some of the same ingredients and you could end up exceeding the daily dose.