Top 9 Things You Must Know About Naproxen
Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on Feb 15, 2020.
Generic Name: naproxen (na PROX en)
Common Proprietary Names: Aleve, EC-Naprosyn, Flanax Pain Reliever, Midol Extended Relief, Naprelan, Naprosyn, Anaprox-DS, Naproxen Sodium, Aleve Caplet, Aleve Gelcap, Aleve Easy Open Arthritis
How often do you need pain relief? If you suffer from low back pain, an aching knee, strained muscles, arthritis, throbbing headaches, tooth pain or any other myriad of painful conditions, you are not alone. It is estimated that chronic pain (pain lasting over 3 months) affects more than 100 million Americans. In fact, pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.
Medications in the class of drugs known as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are the workhorse of pain and fever relief for millions of people. Not surprisingly, NSAIDs are one of the most commonly used class of drugs in the world.
Available in various formulations with or without a prescription, NSAIDs work to relieve inflammation and pain by inhibiting cyclooxygenase and reducing prostaglandin production - in other words, blocking the mechanism of pain. However, this pain relief does not come without important warnings for effective and safe use of naproxen products.
1. Naproxen and naproxen sodium are available in many forms
You can take naproxen orally by tablet or as a liquid suspension, in an extended-release formulation, surrounded by an enteric coating, combined with a proton pump inhibitor to help protect your stomach, with a decongestant to relieve sinus pressure, or even combined with an antimigraine drug like sumatriptan. You can get it with a prescription, or without.
Naproxen comes in two forms - either as the base naproxen or as the salt form naproxen sodium. Both the base and salt forms work the same way to relieve pain. There is one difference -- naproxen base on a milligram-per-milligram basis is slightly stronger than naproxen sodium. Here’s how it works out -- 220, 275, or 550 mg of naproxen sodium equals 200, 250, and 500 mg of naproxen, respectively. However, you don’t need to worry about any conversion as these slight differences are already taken into account when doses are determined.
2. Familiar naproxen products:
Over-the-counter (OTC) naproxen sodium:
- Pamprin All Day
- Midol Extended Relief
- Aleve-D Sinus & Cold (naproxen sodium and pseudoephedrine) - combined with a decongestant
Prescription-only names of naproxen sodium include:
Prescription-only names of naproxen base include:
- Vimovo (esomeprazole and naproxen): helps protect against ulcers
- Treximet (naproxen sodium and sumatriptan): for acute migraine headache
3. Save money: naproxen comes in generic options
Naproxen and its salt formulation have been around for a long time. In fact, the FDA approved the first formulations of naproxen sodium in 1980. That’s good news, because formulations of many naproxen and naproxen sodium drugs are now available generically, saving you dollars at the pharmacy.
For example, you can easily use the generic OTC naproxen to get the same pain relief as you would from the more expensive prescription brands. Just be sure to ask your doctor what the equivalent OTC dose would be based on your indication. The OTC products come in a lower strength than many prescription options, so you may need to take a higher OTC dose.
Naproxen is available over-the-counter for relief of menstrual cramps, but generics work just as well and save you money, too. For menstrual cramps, it may be less expensive to use the generic or store brand naproxen sodium than the branded products like Midol Extended Relief or Pamprin All Day, so it’s worth a comparison. Be sure to check the package size, too, to be sure you are getting a good deal.
4. Naproxen has many uses in many different age groups
Naproxen and its sodium salt are used for many different types of pain, and it is an excellent fever reducer, too. Below are just some of the common uses for naproxen:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Dental work and toothache
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Acute gout
- Dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps)
- General muscle pain and inflammation, like back pain
Children can use naproxen, too. The OTC products are only labeled for children 12 years and older, but some prescription formulations can be used in children as young as 2 years of age for:
- mild to moderate pain
- juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
You must check with your doctor to use any form of naproxen in children under 12 years of age.
Naproxen should be used cautiously and at the lowest possible dose (if at all) in the elderly, especially those at risk for, or with a history of stomach or intestinal ulcers or bleeding.
5. Is naproxen safe for the heart?
You may have heard that naproxen is safer for the heart compared to other NSAIDs like ibuprofen, diclofenac, meloxicam, or celecoxib; however, this is a controversial topic. The FDA has determined that the available studies are not robust enough and were not designed to determine if one NSAID was safer than any other with respect to heart safety (cardiovascular thrombotic events). In addition, when determining the safety of a drug for a patient, risk factors such as other medical conditions, other medications and drug interactions, doses needed, and duration of treatment need to be taken into consideration. The FDA has stated that "based on available data, it is unclear whether the risk for cardiovascular thrombotic events is similar for all non-aspirin NSAIDs."
Since 2005, labeling laws have required a boxed warning on all NSAIDs alerting of increased cardiovascular risks, like heart attack and stroke. That warning was a result of the withdrawal of the NSAID Vioxx (rofecoxib) from the market in 2004 because of a notable increased risk of heart attack among Vioxx users. Celebrex (celecoxib), another COX-2 selective NSAID, is still on the U.S. market.
The heart warning on all NSAID labels state that this class may cause an increased risk of serious and sometimes fatal heart and blood vessel problems (eg, a heart attack, stroke). The risk may be greater if you already have heart problems or if you take NSAIDs for a long period of time. However, a 2017 study found the heart risk was increased with high doses in the first month of use. Additionally, the label warns that NSAIDs should not be used (they are contraindicated) right before or after coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.
6. Can NSAIDs hurt my stomach?
Boxed warnings on naproxen labels also alert patients to important side effect risks for stomach and intestine bleeding. NSAIDs may cause an increased risk of serious and sometimes fatal stomach ulcers and bleeding. Elderly patients (those over 65 years of age) may be at a greater risk, and this effect can occur without any warning signs. NSAIDs may worsen intestinal diverticulitis. Patients with a history of diverticulitis should speak with their doctor about the safety of using of NSAIDs.
You should avoid using aspirin and other anticoagulants with NSAIDs, for example:
Check with your doctor before you combine these medications with NSAIDs, as you may increase your risk for serious bleeding.
7. Be sure: check your naproxen drug interactions
Be sure to alert your pharmacist and physician of all of the medications you take, so that they can screen for clinically significant drug interactions with naproxen, even if you buy it over-the-counter.
Over 400 drugs are known to interact with naproxen. Naproxen also has several food and alcohol interactions you should take note of and discuss with your pharmacist. You can also review significant disease interactions that may be affected by the use of naproxen, like high blood pressure.
Always check drug interactions with all of your prescription, over-the-counter, and vitamin or herbal products, too.
8. Avoid all NSAIDs late in pregnancy
It is important that you ask your doctor for advice before taking any drug in pregnancy.
Naproxen (and all other NSAIDs) should be avoided in late pregnancy (usually during the third trimester) because it may cause premature closure of the ductus arteriosus, which can lead to right heart failure and death of the fetus.
What is premature closure of the ductus arteriosus?
Before birth, the baby is supplied with nutrients and oxygen from the mother through a blood vessel called the ductus arteriosus. This blood vessel needs to stay open before birth, but closes right after birth when the baby starts breathing on its own. If the vessel closes before birth when the baby is still in the womb it is called “premature closure of the ductus arteriosus.”
Taking naproxen or other NSAIDs in the third trimester (typically from week 28 to birth) may cause harm and require that the baby needs to be delivered early. Tell your doctor immediately if you have taken any NSAID in the third trimester of pregnancy, especially if you have used it for more than one dose or have used high doses.
9. Join the naproxen support group
Support groups on Drugs.com may be helpful for patients who use medications for pain relief, have multiple conditions, and who are searching for the latest news. In fact, pain is one of the top medical condition support groups on Drugs.com. Joining one or more support groups is a great way to discover others with similar conditions or using related medications, and to share your own experience.
There are over 400 user reviews for naproxen from people who use this drug for arthritis, back pain, headache and other various conditions (some of which may be off-label use, meaning the drug is not approved by the FDA for that particular use). Here you can ask a question, share an experience, browse through the latest blog posts and questions, and see other ratings from patients who are using naproxen.
Remember, the information is NOT intended to endorse naproxen or recommend drug therapy. While these reviews might be helpful to you, they are NOT a substitute for the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgement of your healthcare provider.
- American Academy of Pain Medicine. AAPM Facts and Figures on Pain. Accessed March 15, 2018 at https://painmed.org/clinician-resources/patient-education-resources
- FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA strengthens warning that non-aspirin nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause heart attacks or strokes. 7/9/2015. Accessed March 15, 2020 at https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-drug-safety-communication-fda-strengthens-warning-non-aspirin-nonsteroidal-anti-inflammatory
- Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs during third trimester and the risk of premature closure of the ductus arteriosus: a meta-analysis. Ann Pharmacother. 2006 May;40(5):824-9. Epub 2006 Apr 25. Accessed March 15, 2020.
- Aleve. Bayer. Frequently Asked Questions. Accessed March 15, 2020 at https://www.aleve.com/faq/dosage/
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.