On a recent trip to the supermarket, I noticed the checkouts are still teeming with confectionery. Nothing new here, except for some interesting additions.

In order to make your life ever sweeter, you can now buy cutely-packaged, glitzy boxes of painkillers, antihistamines and antacids on your way out.

All that's missing is the announcement: "Apologies for the fact our nutrient-deprived, additive-laden and hydrogenated food is making you feel ill, here are some nice pills to help you along."

This has to be customer service at its best.

Or is it? In pharmacies, the customer will be made aware that over-the-counter medication can have serious side-effects.

But at the supermarket, it's unlikely you'll be discussing your latest pain in the buttock with a hapless checkout operator.

Even if it goes some way towards entertaining the queue.

Whatever next? Perhaps some packets of Ritalin should be appropriately stacked next to the Smarties - just in case.

Supermarket checkout stands are prime real estate - the ideal place for those last minute impulse purchases, a true marketeer's dream.

So it comes as no surprise the pharmaceutical companies want their share. Yet they should also recognise the responsibility that comes with buying such prominent display positions.

Where is the warning on the side of the Nurofen packet that says: "This product may temporarily stop your pain but some of its side-effects may be deadly serious"?

Nurofen is a so-called NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug), one of the most frequently prescribed anti-inflammatories in the world. NSAIDs inhibit the production of prostaglandins, hormone-like substances which trigger pain, inflammation and fever.

NSAIDs are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, menstrual cramps, gout, migraines and mild-tomoderate pain.

However, this doesn't necessarily make them safe for long-term use. They are known to cause the most common serious adverse drug reactions and thousands of people are hospitalised every year due to overuse of such drugs.

NSAIDs such as Nurofen can cause drowsiness, dizziness or blurred vision and significant irritation to the stomach and intestines.

Chronic use may lead to indigestion and ulcers.

The damage done to the protective cells lining the gut contributes directly to "leaky gut syndrome" and allows undigested material and bacterial toxins into the bloodstream.

If the intestinal wall becomes increasingly "leaky", eating any kind of food can make the original symptoms worse.

Those with chronic conditions may have problems when trying to come off these drugs. They should be reduced slowly in order to avoid flare-ups.

Natural anti-inflammatory agents provide effective alternatives - they include essential fatty acids, antioxidants and herbal extracts such as ginger, curcumin and boswellia.

Anyone taking NSAIDs should avoid alcohol as it increases the risk of stomach irritation and bleeding.

Those with a history of heart or kidney disease, high blood pressure and gastrointestinal problems need to check with their GP first before getting hooked on those tasty little "treats" at the checkout.

Martina is a qualified nutritional therapist at the Crescent Clinic of Complementary Medicine, 37 Vernon Terrace, Brighton. Tel: 01273 202221 or email: martina@thehealthbank.co.uk