What is Nabumetone?

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  • Written By: Sam Rafelson
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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Nabumetone is the generic name of a medication prescribed by doctors to relieve stiffness, tenderness, inflammation and joint pain in patients suffering from arthritis. Widely prescribed in the medical community since 1991, nabumetone is marketed under the brand names Relafen, Gambaran and Relifex. Doctors typically prescribe it to treat symptoms caused by rheumatoid arthritis, which is characterized by swelling in the lining of the joints, and osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease. Osteoarthritis is marked by a breakdown in the lining of the joints.

Nabumetone is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), a type of medication primarily used to treat mild to moderate pain and fever. NSAIDs are used in the treatment of headaches, sports injuries and menstrual cramps as well as arthritis. As their name suggests, NSAIDs are not related to steroids but work to reduce inflammation. NSAIDs, including nabumetone, work by reducing the body's production of prostaglandins, which are chemicals that promote inflammation, pain and fever. Drugs routinely used to relieve pain such as ibuprofen and naproxen also belong to this class of medication.


An off-white crystalline substance that is non-acidic and virtually insoluble in water, nabumetone usually comes in an oval-shaped, film-coated tablet that contains 500 mg or 750 mg of the medication. Patients typically take the tablets by mouth once or twice a day, with or without food, at approximately the same time each day, according to the instructions of their physician. Doctors often start patients on a low dose of the drug and gradually increase the dosage. Nabumetone is one of the most frequently prescribed medications of its class. Annual sales of nabumetone reached $66.8 million in the U.S. market alone for the 12 months ending September 2010.

Although clinical trials have demonstrated that nabumetone is efficient in treating osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis with a relatively low occurrence of side effects, the drug can cause side effects in some patients, particularly among those taking higher doses of the drug. The most common side effects involve the body's gastrointestinal system and can include abdominal pain, cramping, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, gas or bloating. Patients are sometimes advised to take the drug with food to reduce gastrointestinal distress. More serious side effects can include unexpected weight gain, yellowing of the skin or eyes, a lack of energy, a loss of appetite, hives or a rash. Patients are advised to contact their doctor immediately if they are experiencing any of those symptoms.


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