Ibuprofen vs Naproxen

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For patients suffering from conditions that cause pain or inflammation such as arthritis, certain drugs that inhibit the production of compounds in the body called prostaglandins can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Ibuprofen and Naproxen are two such nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) often prescribed for these types of conditions. They each work by inhibiting cyclooxygenase enzymes to reduce levels of prostaglandins, which are responsible for causing inflammation and pain in the body. Ibuprofen is a propionic acid derivative with analgesic, antipyretic, and anti-inflammatory activities. On the other hand, Naproxen is classified as a propionic acid derivative too but has a longer half-life than ibuprofen resulting in longer durations between dosing intervals.

What is Ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen (commonly known by brand names such as Advil and Motrin) was one of the first nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to be available over the counter. It was approved by the FDA in 1974. Ibuprofen works by inhibiting enzymes called COX-1 and COX-2 that produce a class of compounds called prostaglandins, which result in inflammation, pain, and fever. On the other hand, Naproxen (sold under brands like Aleve), another NSAID similar to ibuprofen but with a longer half-life allowing for less frequent dosing, was also approved by the FDA around roughly the same time period; it operates similarly but tends to have stronger effects on relieving inflammation specifically. Both are used prevalently for relief from various forms of acute pain or chronic conditions causing discomfort such as arthritis. However, due to Ibuprofen's lower potency compared to Naproxen at equivalent doses, it may lead to fewer gastrointestinal side-effects often associated with long-term use of NSAIDs.

What conditions is Ibuprofen approved to treat?

Ibuprofen is approved for the treatment of various types of pain and inflammation:

  • Mild to moderate pain, such as headache, dental pain, menstrual cramps
  • Inflammation and stiffness caused by conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Fever reducer
  • Relief from symptoms associated with colds or flu

On the other hand, Naproxen is also prescribed for similar uses including:

  • Treatment of acute gout attacks
  • Pain relief from various sources, including headaches, muscle aches, tendonitis and menstrual cramps
  • Long-term management of chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

How does Ibuprofen help with these illnesses?

Ibuprofen works to manage pain and inflammation by reducing the production of prostaglandins in the body. These compounds are produced in response to injury or certain diseases and can cause inflammation, pain, and fever. Ibuprofen does this by inhibiting an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX), which is essential for prostaglandin production. Therefore, by reducing prostaglandin levels, Ibuprofen can limit the discomfort associated with inflammation, injury or certain conditions like arthritis, and help patients manage their symptoms more effectively.

On the other hand, Naproxen also works by reducing the levels of prostaglandins in the body, through the same mechanism of inhibiting the COX enzyme. However, the key difference between Ibuprofen and Naproxen lies in their duration of action. Naproxen is a longer-acting drug, meaning its effects can last longer than Ibuprofen. Patients may prefer Naproxen if they require sustained relief from pain and inflammation, or fewer doses throughout the day.

What is Naproxen?

Naproxen, marketed under various brand names such as Aleve and Naprosyn among others, is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that works by reducing hormones that cause inflammation and pain in the body. It was first approved by the FDA in 1976. Naproxen is not a selective COX-2 inhibitor, which means it inhibits both COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes. This lack of selectivity means that its side-effect profile is also different from that of selective COX-2 inhibitors, in particular in that it could potentially cause more gastric irritation and is less likely to increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes (common side effects of selective COX-2 inhibitors). The anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects of naproxen can be beneficial for the treatment of conditions like arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, gout, or menstrual cramps, especially in patients who do not respond well to other NSAIDs like ibuprofen.

What conditions is Naproxen approved to treat?

Naproxen has been approved by the FDA in the US for the treatment of conditions such as:

  • Pain and inflammation associated with arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and juvenile arthritis.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis (a type of spinal arthritis)
  • Acute gout
  • Menstrual cramps and other types of short-term pain.

How does Naproxen help with these illnesses?

Prostaglandins are lipid compounds that play a significant role in inflammation, fever and pain within the body. They have diverse effects on many physiological processes like blood clotting, labor induction during childbirth, gastric acid secretion and more. Similar to Ibuprofen, Naproxen works by inhibiting cyclooxygenase enzymes responsible for the production of prostaglandins thus reducing inflammation and alleviating pain symptoms. However, what sets Naproxen apart is its longer duration of action compared to Ibuprofen which allows less frequent dosing - typically twice a day versus every four to six hours for ibuprofen. Therefore, it's often chosen when prolonged relief from symptoms such as arthritis or other chronic conditions is required. Like all NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs), both medications should be used with caution due to potential gastrointestinal and cardiovascular side effects.

How effective are both Ibuprofen and Naproxen?

Both ibuprofen and naproxen are widely used nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with a long history of effectively treating pain, inflammation, and fever. They were approved by the FDA within a decade of each other; ibuprofen in 1974 and naproxen in 1982. Both medications act by inhibiting the cyclooxygenase enzymes needed for the synthesis of prostaglandins, which play key roles in inflammation.

Ibuprofen and naproxen have been compared head-to-head in numerous studies for various indications including arthritis, menstrual cramps, post-operative pain among others. In most cases they exhibited similar efficacy as well as safety profiles. While both drugs are generally safe when used at over-the-counter doses for short periods of time under proper supervision, they carry risks of gastrointestinal bleeding or ulcers especially if taken chronically or at high doses.

In terms of drug-specific features, naproxen has a longer half-life than ibuprofen which can be advantageous because it requires less frequent dosing (usually twice per day compared to three to four times daily with ibuprofen). However this also means that its effects linger longer which could potentially increase risk for side effects such as gastrointestinal issues or interference with certain blood pressure medications.

Similar to how bupropion may be chosen specifically due to its lower likelihood of sexual side effects relative to SSRIs like fluoxetine, there might be circumstances where either ibuprofen or naproxen is preferred based on an individual patient's needs and overall health status.

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Ibuprofen typically prescribed?

Oral dosages of Ibuprofen range from 200–800 mg every 4-6 hours, depending on the severity of the pain or inflammation. However, studies have indicated that a dose of 400 mg is usually adequate to treat mild to moderate pain in most adults. For children and adolescents, doses are typically calculated based on weight (usually around 10 mg/kg), and can be given every 6-8 hours as needed. Dosage can be increased after a few days if there is no response, but should not exceed the maximum daily limit which for adults is generally set at 3200 mg/day.

On the other hand, Naproxen dosage ranges from 220–550mg taken twice daily. A lower end dose is often sufficient for managing chronic conditions like arthritis in many individuals. The initial pediatric dosage starts at about 5mg/kg twice per day for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis specifically. As with ibuprofen, dosage adjustments may be necessary if symptoms persist after initial treatment but should never surpass the maximum recommended daily limit which for adults stands at approximately 1500mg/day.

At what dose is Naproxen typically prescribed?

Naproxen therapy usually begins at a dosage of 250-500 mg twice daily for relief from symptoms like inflammation or pain. This dose can then be adjusted to a maximum of 1000 mg/day, divided into two doses, spaced around 12 hours apart. If there is no response after several weeks, your healthcare provider might consider increasing the dosage up to 1500 mg/day in divided doses. These higher dosages should only be used under strict medical supervision due to the increased risk of side effects. Always consult with your doctor before making any adjustments to medication regimens.

What are the most common side effects for Ibuprofen?

Common side effects of ibuprofen and naproxen include:

  • Upset stomach or heartburn
  • Nausea, indigestion, or gas
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nervousness
  • Mild itching or rash
  • Ringing in your ears

It's important to note that both these medications can cause more serious side effects like stomach bleeding, kidney problems, and increased risk of heart attack. Always consult with a medical professional before starting a new medication regimen.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Ibuprofen?

While both Ibuprofen and Naproxen are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), there can be differences in their side effects. Some serious but rare side effects of these medications include:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as hives, difficulty breathing or swallowing; swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Serious skin reactions such as a red rash that spreads across your body with blistering or peeling skin. This could also come along with fever and sore throats.
  • Vision-related issues like blurred vision, eye pain or changes in color perception;
  • Heart problems: Chest discomfort that radiates to the shoulder, shortness of breath, slurred speech – these symptoms may suggest a heart attack.
  • Lower sodium levels - symptoms might include headache, confusion and weakness
  • Severe nervous system reaction: Muscle stiffness or spasms; high fever; sweating; fast heartbeat; shivering/twitching muscles loss of coordination Remember to stop using either ibuprofen or naproxen and seek immediate medical attention if you experience any severe side effect.

What are the most common side effects for Naproxen?

While taking Naproxen, you might experience:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Heartburn, stomach pain
  • Drowsiness, dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears or other hearing impairment
  • Light-headedness
  • Mild rash on skin It's also important to note that long-term use of Naproxen could lead to ulcers or bleeding in the gut. If you have history of heart disease or stroke, it's advised to consult with a healthcare professional before starting this medication as it may increase risk for heart attack and stroke. Furthermore, those with kidney disease need to be cautious due its potential detrimental effects on renal function.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Naproxen?

Naproxen, like many NSAIDs, is generally safe for most people. However, in rare cases it can produce serious side effects. You should be aware of the following potential issues:

  • Signs of a severe allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing or swallowing; swelling on your face, lips, tongue or throat.
  • Heart-related problems: chest pain spreading to your jaw or shoulder; sudden numbness or weakness (especially on one side of the body); slurred speech; shortness of breath.
  • Stomach and digestive problems: bloody or black stools; coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds.
  • Kidney problems: little to no urinating; painful urination; swelling in your feet and ankles
  • Liver problems: nausea and vomiting with upper stomach pain and loss of appetite followed by itching, dark urine, clay-colored stools and jaundice.

If you experience any such symptoms while taking Naproxen stop immediately and consult a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

Contraindications for Ibuprofen and Naproxen?

Both ibuprofen and naproxen, like all NSAID medications, can potentially cause gastrointestinal side effects in some people. If you notice any serious issues such as severe stomach pain or the presence of blood or black material in your stools (which could indicate gastrointestinal bleeding), please seek immediate medical attention.

Neither ibuprofen nor naproxen should be taken if you are taking, or have recently taken certain other medications such as anticoagulants (blood thinners) and corticosteroids. Always inform your healthcare provider about which medications you're currently on; these drugs may require a period of clearance from the system to prevent dangerous interactions with ibuprofen and naproxen. Furthermore, both medicines should not be used during the last 3 months of pregnancy due to potential harm to the unborn baby and interference with normal labor/delivery.

How much do Ibuprofen and Naproxen cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price of 100 tablets of Advil (Ibuprofen, 200 mg) averages around $10, which works out to about $0.20/day if you take the maximum over-the-counter dose (1200mg/day).
  • Aleve (Naproxen, 220mg), another popular non-prescription NSAID, costs approximately $12 for a bottle containing 100 tablets. If you were to take the maximum over-the-counter dosage (660 mg per day), it would cost roughly $0.18 per day.

Thus, in terms of daily cost based on typical dosages and assuming no insurance or discounts are applied, there is not a significant difference between ibuprofen and naproxen.

For their generic versions:

  • Generic ibuprofen can typically be found at lower prices than its branded counterpart with prices ranging from as low as $7 for a bottle containing 500 tablets.
  • Similarly priced is generic naproxen sodium; bottles containing several hundred tablets can often be purchased for less than ten dollars.

Despite these price differences, it's important to remember that your decision should not be solely based on cost considerations but also efficacy and potential side effects related to each drug in relation to your specific health condition(s). Always consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new medication regimen.

Popularity of Ibuprofen and Naproxen

Ibuprofen, available both in generic form and under brand names like Advil or Motrin, was estimated to have been prescribed to about 22 million people in the US in 2020. Accounting for almost 15% of all non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) prescriptions in the country, ibuprofen has consistently ranked among the most commonly used over-the-counter pain relievers.

Naproxen, including branded versions such as Aleve or Naprosyn among others, was prescribed to roughly 6.2 million people in the USA during 2020. In terms of NSAID prescriptions within the US, naproxen claims a share just under 10%. The use of naproxen has remained relatively steady over recent years with small fluctuations depending on specific population needs and prescription trends. Both drugs fall within the NSAID class and are regularly used for managing pain, reducing fever and minimizing inflammation; however differences lie largely in their duration of action - Naproxen typically lasts longer than Ibuprofen per dose.


Both ibuprofen and naproxen have long-standing records of usage in patients with pain, inflammation, or fever. They are backed by numerous clinical studies indicating that they are more effective than placebo treatments. Naproxen is longer acting than ibuprofen and therefore needs fewer doses per day with a slower onset of action; it's often chosen for conditions like osteoarthritis where constant anti-inflammatory effect can be beneficial.

Ibuprofen, due to its shorter half-life and quicker onset of action, tends to be preferred for acute pain relief such as headaches or menstrual cramps. Both drugs work by inhibiting the cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes needed for prostaglandin production—a substance involved in inflammation.

Both drugs are available over-the-counter in lower doses while higher dosages require a prescription from a physician. This accessibility represents significant cost savings especially for patients who must pay out of pocket.

The side effect profile is similar between the two drugs, both generally well-tolerated but carry risks such as gastrointestinal issues including ulcers if used excessively or long-term. Both also pose cardiovascular risk when used long-term and should not be used before or after certain heart surgeries due to these risks. As such, it’s advisable that patients start on the lowest possible dose and closely monitor their response to treatment—seeking medical help immediately if they notice any adverse effects.