Worldwide, there has been an emerging patient demand for access to efficient drugs without consulting a doctor and obtaining a prescription. As a result, there has been an expanding movement of prescription-only drugs to over-the-counter (OTC) status. An increasing number of drugs are becoming available OTC, empowering patients to treat themselves. Where the principle of empowering individuals to treat themselves can fail is when consumers lack the knowledge to do so safely. This potentially applies to the self-selection of analgesic drugs by consumers. When used inappropriately, these drugs pose significant risks. The nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are associated with many adverse reactions, interactions, and contraindications in a number of patient groups, even at OTC doses. In particular, in the elderly, the high incidence of cardiovascular and gastrointestinal disease, coupled with age-related decline in renal function and multiple medication use, all warrant extra caution with the use of NSAIDs and make paracetamol the simple analgesic drug of first choice. Despite the possibility of hepatotoxicity in overdose, paracetamol represents a better all-round option for most patients requiring OTC analgesic therapy.