NSAIDs: Uses, most common brand names, and safety information
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Medications used to treat fever and inflammation date back thousands of years to when Greek doctors used an extract from willow bark and leaves. By the 1860s, researchers identified and mass-produced the active ingredient of willow bark, salicylic acid. Aspirin, which was produced in 1897 by the Bayer company, is considered the first nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Researchers did not understand how aspirin worked until the 1970s. This helped lead to the development of the most common NSAIDs we use today such as Advil (ibuprofen) and Aleve (naproxen)
The list below includes over-the-counter NSAIDs (OTC) and prescription NSAIDs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and their pricing:
List of NSAIDs
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.
Toradol is indicated to treat moderate-to-severe acute pain.
Feldene is indicated to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Nalfon is indicated to treat pain, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis.
Ansaid is indicated to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Orudis is indicated to treat osteoarthritis, dysmenorrhea, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Indocin is indicated to treat bursitis, tendinitis, gouty arthritis, and rheumatoid disorders.
Lodine is indicated to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Dolobid is indicated to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Ponstel (mefenamic acid)
Ponstel is indicated to treat acute pain and primary dysmenorrhea.
What are NSAIDs?
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs) are a class of medications that are used to relieve pain and fever and reduce inflammation. NSAIDs are considered non-opioid analgesics. The two primary types of NSAIDs are non-selective and COX-2 selective. The majority of NSAIDs are non-selective and are both COX-1 and COX-2 inhibitors. Because COX-1 protects the stomach lining, blocking it increases the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers. Inhibition of COX-2 increases your risk of heart attacks.
NSAIDs are typically used to treat mild-to-moderate pain. For more severe pain, your doctor may prescribe an opioid pain reliever.
How do NSAIDs work?
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduce pain and inflammation (swelling) at the site of pain by inhibiting cyclooxygenase, an enzyme responsible for the synthesis of prostaglandins. NSAIDs can also be used to reduce fever. NSAIDs also decrease the activity of blood platelets and the formation of blood clots. This gives them anti-clotting properties but also increases your risk of side effects.
NSAIDs come in various strengths and dosage forms such as capsules, tablets, injections, creams, and gels.
What conditions are NSAIDs used to treat?
NSAIDs are a class of medications used for pain management in conditions such as:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Short-term relief of post-op pain
- Chronic pain
- Back pain
- Joint pain
- Muscle aches
- Sprains or other injuries
- Menstrual cramps
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Dental pain
Are NSAIDs safe?
The use of NSAIDs is relatively safe and effective when taken as prescribed. Your prescribing physician should be aware of your medical conditions, including:
- Allergic reaction to any NSAIDs
- Heart disease or congestive heart failure
- Recent coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery
- Are in your third trimester of pregnancy
- Liver disease
- Reduced kidney function
- Bleeding disorder
- History of gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding
- Uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Reye’s syndrome
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:
- Blood thinners or any medication that affects coagulation such as aspirin and Coumadin (warfarin)
- ACE inhibitors such as Zestril (lisinopril), Altace (ramipril), and Accupril (quinapril)
- Beta-blockers such as Tenormin (atenolol) and Lopressor (metoprolol)
- SSRIs such as Prozac (fluoxetine) and Lexapro (escitalopram)
- Diuretics such as Lasix (furosemide)
Can you take NSAIDs while you are pregnant or breastfeeding?
It is important not to use NSAIDs in the third trimester or later in pregnancy as they may cause harm to your fetus. 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.
There are no adequate studies on the use of NSAIDs during lactation. 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 NSAIDs?
Some common adverse effects of NSAIDs include:
- Stomach pain
- Fluid retention
NSAIDs can sometimes cause serious side effects, especially when taken at higher doses. These can include:
- Increased risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack
- Liver impairment
- Kidney disease
- Stomach ulcers
- Hypersensitivity reactions, including anaphylaxis
- Asthma attacks
- Skin rash
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 NSAIDs cost?
NSAIDs are very expensive with an average cost of around $500-1,000 per year.
You can purchase NSAIDs 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 NSAIDs
The content on this website is intended for information purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice. The information on this website should not be relied upon and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always speak to your doctor regarding the risks and benefits of any treatment.