Analgesics: Uses, most common brand names, and safety information
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According to the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), pain is clinically defined as an unpleasant sensory or emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage. It is the most common reason people seek medical care. The Institutes of Medicine and the American Pain Society estimated that over 100 million American adults are affected by pain annually.
In the 1600s, it was common for European doctors to give their patients opium to help relieve pain. By the 1900s, morphine and heroin began being used as pain medications. This was followed throughout the 20th century by new opioid analgesics and the opioid crisis that followed. Researchers have now found new ways to treat pain through different classes of medications, including antidepressants and anticonvulsants without the potential for abuse and addiction.
The list below includes prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) analgesics approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and their pricing:
List of Analgesics
Advil is indicated to treat pain, fever, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Naprosyn is indicated to treat pain, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and gout.
Anaprox DS (naproxen)
Anaprox DS is indicated to treat pain, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and gout.
Celebrex is indicated to treat acute pain, dysmenorrhea, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and migraine.
Daypro is indicated to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Cataflam is indicated to treat osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, migraine, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Clinoril is indicated to treat osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, gout, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Mobic is indicated to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Relafen is indicated to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Toradol is indicated to treat moderate-to-severe acute pain.
Roxicodone is indicated to treat chronic pain and moderate-to-severe pain.
Tylenol #3 (acetaminophen/codeine)
Tylenol #3 is indicated to treat pain and cough.
Duragesic is indicated to treat chronic severe pain.
Dilaudid is indicated to treat moderate-to-severe pain and chronic severe pain.
Norco is indicated to treat moderate-to-severe pain.
Demerol is indicated to treat pain.
Methadose is indicated for the management of pain that requires around-the-clock treatment that has failed other treatment options.
Suboxone is indicated to treat opioid dependence.
Ultram is indicated to treat pain.
Cymbalta is indicated to treat diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain, fibromyalgia, and chronic musculoskeletal pain.
Lyrica is indicated to treat diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain, fibromyalgia, and postherpetic neuralgia.
Neurontin is indicated to treat postherpetic neuralgia and diabetic neuropathy.
What are analgesics?
Analgesics, or painkillers, are medications used to help manage and treat pain. Unlike medicines used during surgery for anesthesia, analgesics don’t block nerve impulses, alter your ability to sense your surroundings, or affect your consciousness. There are different several types of analgesics that can be used based on the type of pain you are suffering from. Each class of analgesic has its benefits and risks. The most common types of pain medications include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), salicylates, COX-2 inhibitors, opioid analgesics, non-opioid analgesics, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and local anesthetics.
How do analgesics work?
Analgesics work in several different ways, depending on the class of medications. For example, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduce pain and inflammation (swelling) at the injury site by inhibiting cyclooxygenase, an enzyme responsible for the synthesis of prostaglandins. NSAIDs are also used to reduce fever. Opioid analgesics provide pain relief by changing your brain’s perception of pain. They do this by activating opioid receptors located in the central nervous system (CNS), peripheral nervous system, and peripheral tissues. This slows down neuronal activity and reduces the transmission of pain signals to the brain.
There are many strengths and dosage forms available to help achieve an adequate analgesic effect. OTC medications such as NSAIDs can be used for mild to moderate pain while prescription opioids are typically saved for moderate to severe pain that was not controlled with other pain medications.
Dosage forms of analgesics include capsules, tablets, injections, creams, and gels.
What conditions are analgesics used to treat?
Analgesics are a class of medications used for pain management in conditions such as:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Short-term relief of pain following surgery or an injury
- Nerve pain
- Chronic pain
- Headaches including migraines
- Menstrual cramps
- Sore muscles
- Wound care/ulcer debridement
- Dental pain
- Back pain
Are analgesics safe?
The use of analgesics is relatively safe and effective when taken as prescribed. Your prescribing physician should be aware of your medical conditions, including:
- Hypersensitivity to the analgesic formulation
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- History of gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding
- Bleeding disorders
- Uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Myasthenia gravis
- Chronic alcohol abuse
- History of opioid or drug addiction
- Reye’s syndrome
- Are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant as they may cause fetal harm and/or death
You should also make sure they are aware of all the medications you take, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and supplements, as they may cause drug interactions:
- Medications that cause sedation, including muscle relaxants and anxiety medications
- Blood thinners or any medication that affects coagulation such as aspirin and Coumadin (warfarin)
Can you take analgesics while you are pregnant or breastfeeding?
Most drugs used for analgesia should be avoided while pregnant. If you need pain relief, you should use the lowest effective dose with a medication approved by your healthcare provider. Tylenol (acetaminophen) is generally considered the safest pain medication to take during pregnancy.
Acetaminophen, or paracetamol, and Advil (ibuprofen) are considered safe to use while lactating. Opioids should be avoided if possible while breastfeeding. If they have to be used they should be given at the lowest effective dose for the minimum time necessary. You should monitor the infant for excessive sedation, feeding changes, and respiratory depression.
You should always discuss the risks and benefits of any medication you need with your healthcare provider if you are pregnant, plan on becoming pregnant, or are breastfeeding.
What are the common side effects of analgesics?
Some common adverse effects of analgesics include:
- Stomach pain
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Fluid retention
- Ringing in the ears
- Increased sensitivity to the sun
Analgesics can sometimes cause serious side effects, especially when taken at higher doses. These can include:
- Liver damage
- Kidney damage
- Increased risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke
- Stomach ulcers
- Excessive bleeding
- Hypersensitivity reactions, including anaphylaxis
- Respiratory depression, especially with opioids
- Low white blood cell count
- Stevens-Johnson syndrome
- Addiction or dependence with opioid use
This is not a complete list of side effects and we encourage you to consult with your healthcare professional for medical advice about any possible side effects.
How much do analgesics cost?
Analgesics are very expensive with an average cost of around $500-1,,000 per year.
You can purchase analgesics for $49 per month from NiceRx if eligible for assistance. Prices at the pharmacy vary by location, strength, and quantity, as well as your insurance status.
Related resources for analgesics