Some differences between diclofenac and ibuprofen are that the two drugs derive from separate chemicals and possess discrete molecular structures. The medications also come in a variety of tablet or liquid strengths and aren’t equivalent to each other, milligram for milligram. In most regions people don’t need a prescription for low-dose ibuprofen, but they do need one for diclofenac and higher doses of ibuprofen. On the other hand, diclofenac and ibuprofen have many noted similarities, including that they are both non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), frequently used to treat arthritis and other pain conditions, and are likely to share side effects and important drug warnings.
There are numerous types of NSAIDs, which may be classified by the chemicals from which they derive. Diclofenac is a derivative of acetic acid. Conversely, ibuprofen is created from propionic acid.
Diclofenac and ibuprofen are also set apart by their molecular structures. Ibuprofen is what is known as a chiral, which means its mirror image cannot superimpose over the original molecule. A good analogy for this structural relationship would be human hands; each is a chiral for the other. In contrast, diclofenac doesn’t have a non-superimposable mirror image, which differentiates it from ibuprofen and most other NSAIDs.
Another way to compare NSAIDs is by evaluating their strength. Milligram for milligram, diclofenac is stronger than ibuprofen. It’s important to point out that when the drugs are administered in equivalent doses, however, both work equally well.
A big difference between diclofenac and ibuprofen is that people can buy ibuprofen over the counter in 200 milligram (mg) pills or in a variety of strengths in elixirs and combination drugs. These lower-dose versions are good for minor pain, but may not always address more significant discomfort. Physicians have the option of prescribing higher dose strengths of ibuprofen, if it is warranted. In almost all cases, people can’t get diclofenac of any strength without a prescription.
The dissimilarities between diclofenac and ibuprofen are somewhat outweighed by the two medications’ likenesses. As stated, both are equally effective when given in equivalent doses, and they are NSAIDs, possessing anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and fever-reducing benefits. A patient might take either of these medicines for arthritis, extreme menstrual pain, dental discomfort, or injury.
In side effects, diclofenac and ibuprofen are also closely linked. The two drugs tend to risk stomach upset and rash, and may each cause serious allergy. Important warnings for both medications are that chronic use may precipitate sudden heart attacks or severe gastrointestinal ulceration and bleeding. Recently, diclofenac has also been associated with a higher risk of sudden stroke, and this warning does not, as yet, apply to ibuprofen.