Two weeks ago, I bought a package containing 100 caplets of Tylenol PM caplets from my grocery store’s pharmacy aisle. I checked the lot number marked on the box against the list on the McNeil consumer healthcare website, and my lot appears to be fine.

Today, Avandia, the prescription drug that treats diabetes, hit the headlines of the world’s major newspapers:

Avandia Panel Hints At Doubts of Credibility, says the New York Times

Avandia Hearings To Reveal True Dangers of Popular Drug, according to FOXNews

GlaxoSmithKline Hid Negative Avandia Data: Lawmakers, reads ABC News

Glaxo to Pay $460 million in Avandia Settlement, notes Reuters.

And there’s also a story today on emerging foodborne illnesses emerging from some bad salsa and guacamole.

Drug safety news, for both prescriptions and OTCs, is now part of consumers’ daily news consumption. Increasingly, food supply issues are also creeping into the six o’clock news, whether for bagged greens or, in today’s case, nasty avocado-based products. These stories aren’t just in the Health sections of news outlets, but are mainstream news jockeying for position in print and on broadcast channels with other bad news like the BP oil spill, the heatwave, the Iraq War, battles in Afghanistan, and the poor jobs outlook.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: In light of the growing number of drug product recalls and FDA alerts, it’s time for the definition of health literacy to broaden to include health consumers’ understanding of how to track, pay attention to, and heed these announcements. In our rush to get things done, multi-task, and TiVo out unpleasant news and advertising, these important messages can get lost in our daily personal mix of what we let into our consciousness, and what we keep out.

In the meantime, my husband has been lobbying for me to switch to Benadryl for nighttime sleeplessness, which is a condition many of us suffer in the current economic climate. Our internist suggested this as a substitute for expensive branded OTC overnight meds. I think it’s time to listen to them.

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