Expert highlights paracetamol and ibuprofen 'mistake' and 'hidden' way to fix it

paracetamol tablets with a packet in the background
-Credit: (Image: Lauren Hurley/PA)

It’s a common minor annoyance to open paracetamol or ibuprofen cartons only to find the medication leaflet facing the wrong way. But a hidden trick could put an end to the mistake that causes this frustration for good.

Steve Brownett-Gale, packaging expert for pharmaceutical packaging firm Origin, said research showed that more than half of Brits (56 per cent) are on prescription medication, while one in eight will take a painkiller every day. As a country, 1.08 billion prescription items were dispensed last year alone.

Steve said: “But despite the huge volume of medication being dispensed and consumed each day, most people shockingly don’t know the correct way to open medication packets. One Redditor under r/BritishProblems voiced their frustration for opening pill packets only to always find the medication leaflet wrapped around the blister pack, making it difficult to remove and re-insert their medication.

“However, they aren’t alone. Other commenters on the post, which garnered over 6.5k votes, replied with similar grievances. One commented 'I do this every single time with my medication. It drives me nuts', while another described the experience as 'The bane of my life at work'."

How to open paracetamol or ibuprofen tablets the right way

Steve said: “It may feel like a coin flip, but it doesn’t have to be. A little-known trick is to look out for the medication’s expiry date printed or engraved on one of the carton’s flaps. Whichever side this is on, it’s the opposite flap that you’ll need to open to get leaflet-free access to your medication.

“Medication packaging is actually strategically designed to try to make you open it the ‘wrong’ way first. For safety reasons, packaging designers will try to get patients to engage with the Patient Information Leaflet by encouraging them to remove it from the packet, making it more likely that you’ll look through this important information.

“For this reason, it’s common that the correct opening of the medication packet is where you’re less likely to suspect. People also tend to instinctively open the packet with the leaflet side up as its weight makes it feel like the logical choice, misleading you into thinking that's where the medication is.

“While getting the wrong end of the pill packaging can be annoying, it’s important not to get frustrated and throw away the leaflet and packaging altogether. The information provided in the leaflet can be crucial for understanding dosage instructions, potential side effects and other important details about your medication. Discarding it without review could lead to misunderstandings or even potential health risks.

“However, following this hack will help ensure you never have to struggle with accidentally crumpling the leaflet when trying to reinsert blister packets, making your medication routine smoother and more hassle-free.”