Co-op charge almost ten times as much for identical painkillers

5 March 2015

Good old Co-Operative Food. You know, the one founded on ethical principles? Well, it seems they are as ready to swindle consumers as any less ethical supermarket, by making false claims on their products, and then attempting to charge almost ten times as much for the hyped-up product.

If you have a headache, you might want to buy some painkillers. Ibuprofen is a popular choice. In Co-operative Food stores, you can find both standard ibuprofen tablets and ‘Long Lasting’ ibuprofen tablets side by side on the shelf. If you are a busy person, you might think you’d better purchase the ‘long lasting’ tablets to make sure your pain does not impinge on your day any more than absolutely necessary.

photo 3

As you can see, the standard and long-lasting tablets are in very similar packaging. So similar, and so closely nestled together that it almost might be possible to mistakenly pick up the wrong packet- which would be an expensive mistake to make given than the ‘Long Lasting’ ibuprofen tablets cost £1.95 for 8 tablets (24.4p each)and the standard ibuprofen tablets  cost 45p for 16 tablets (2.8p each). Now, almost ten times more expensive is a fairly hefty premium to pay for a  ‘long lasting’ effect so we checked the ingredients of the tablets to see what gave the long lasting tablets their endurance. Guess what we found? That’s right. Nothing.

You see the 2.8p tablets and the 24.4p tablets are identical in terms of active ingredients. Both contain 200mg ibuprofen.  So we were confused. Surely the Co-op with their “ethical values” that include “openness” and “honesty” were not merely trying to sell consumers ibuprofen with added snake oil just to make a hefty profit?

So we asked them. And they said "there is a difference," but didn't actually get round to explaining what the difference was, or responding to our query as to whether they thought they were deliberately misleading customers by selling products that are chemically identical under another name. Funny that. Looks like the “Co-operative value” of “self responsibility- we take responsibility for, and answer to our actions” might be something else that is actually a load of old codswallop…


Co-op have now come back to tell us why the "Long Lasting" tablets are worth so much more. The answer is that "the Long Lasting ibuprofen are made up of beads which allow the ibuprofen to release slowly as opposed to  the tablet which is immediate." They also feel that swindle is too strong a word.

So it's up to you as to whether you would rather take two long lasting tablets, delivering you 400mg of pain relief over 12 hours for a total cost of 48.8p, or whether you'd rather take two tablets every four hours and get 1200mg of pain relief at a cost of 16.8p. A third of the pain relieving ingredient for (almost) three times the cost. Seems perfectly reasonable...



  • Breadman
    I am not affiliated with, or a particular fan of, Co-op. But there's more to how long a painkiller lasts than the volume of active ingredient. What if they have a different coating, so that they are broken down differently in the stomach, meaning that one is released more slowly than the other? Slow news day at BW Towers? Also, at the risk of being a picky bugger, is 8 and two-thirds the cost, really nearly ten times?
  • Sticky
    Breadman, you really are a picky bugger... Read the title... it says ALMOST ten times. For once BW have got it almost right!
  • Howdareyoudeletemycomments
    As a former employee of the Co-op, I've seen the mural on the 14th floor of 1 Angel Square that espouses all their positive qualities, such as the aforementioned honesty. Shame about the institutionalised bullying that occurs from mid to lower management and forces people into leaving. Saw that happen a few times and then fell victim to it myself. HR back the managers regardless of the evidence. Bit off-topic I know, but I'm supporting the notion that the Co-op are not what they would have you believe.
  • joe
    Long lasting pills have a coating that isnt as easily broken down by stomach acid
  • joe
    the real crime is neurofen vs own brand, also neurofen have literaly just been sued regarding false claims
  • JonB
    @Breadman "is 8 and two-thirds the cost, really nearly ten times?" Yes it is.
  • Albi
    One is a tablet, the other is a gelatine capsule.
  • Ken D.
    Difference is probably timed release. I used to take a med called Coreg and it cost nearly $9.00 per day. Now I take Carvedilol twice a day for about $0.80 per day. Active ingredient in both is the same, Carvedilol. Difference is "timed release".
  • James D.
    On the back there should be a pl number or product licence number. If it's the same then Co op are ripping people off lol. If it's a different pl then they probably didn't even know.
  • Mr C.
    This is a non-story, I think someone at Bitterwallet has completely misunderstood something very simple and thought there was a story. As people have said, the difference is in the in the coating which will affect it's rate of digestion and absorption, therefore making it longer lasting. The active ingredient is obviously the same, the big label on the front saying "Ibuprofen, 200mg" makes that pretty clear. If the active ingredient was different then it would be a completely different product. They are not selling products that are "chemically identical" under a different name, they are selling it under the exact same name but with a different delivery method and the pictures make it clear that one contains tablets, while the other contains capsules. I'm not sure what else you could expect them to do to make the difference clear. You would only get confused if you didn't read the label at all, and if you are buying over the counter drugs it is very much your responsibility to read the label and to read it properly.
  • Father J.
    "I think someone at Bitterwallet has completely misunderstood something very simple and thought there was a story." Surely not!
  • Alex
    BW really has missed the point of this one. This is standard in drugs. A very low quality article compared to your normal output
  • Spencer
    At the risk of getting too nerdy - I am a med student. I have studied pharmacology. There is a difference. There's 2 concerns/points of note when dealing with drugs, the Pharmacodynamics = what the drug does to your body. and Pharmacokinetics = What your body does to the drug. 200mg of ibuprofen will have the same dynamics. They'll do the same thing. However, slow release drugs have different kinetics. That is to say, they'll be metabolized and excreted (broken down and urinated out) at different rates. In real terms - To put this simply, Ibuprofen belongs to a family of drugs called NSAID'S (non steroidal anti-inflammatorys) Because of how these drugs work, they can - and do - mess with your stomach lining and they do increase your chances of developing stomach ulcers. So, it's in your interest not to keep taking loads every day - so buy the slow release. :)
  • Breadman
    @job - nearly 9 times, surely? If the argument is that it's nearly nine and nine is nearly ten, well, why stop there? 7 is nearly 8 and 8 is nearly 9. As we've established, 9 is nearly ten. So is 7 nearly 10? Not really? My real point though, beyond numeric pedantry, is that this is an uncharacteristically poor article, unworthy of the usually excellent BW.
  • BOB404
    Go into a Co-OP with a pharmacy have a look at the prices of pills etc. Then go into the main shop and look at the prices of the pills - cheaper! and just for a few more steps.

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