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Motrin vs Advil: What's the difference?

Both Motrin and Advil are NSAIDs but is one stronger or more likely to cause side effects compared to the other?

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on March 29, 2019.

Official Answer

by Drugs.com

There is no real difference. Motrin and Advil are both brands of ibuprofen and are equally effective.

Motrin, Motrin IB and Advil are brand names for the drug ibuprofen. Ibuprofen belongs to a group of medicines called NSAIDs. Other brands of ibuprofen available in the U.S. include Genpril, Midol IB, and Proprinal.

Ibuprofen (Motrin, Motrin IB, Advil) is a Nonselective NSAID

Ibuprofen is called a nonselective NSAID, because it blocks COX-2 enzymes (involved in pain signalling and inflammation) and also COX-1 enzymes (associated with a protective effect on stomach lining). This makes it effective at relieving pain and reducing inflammation, but there is a risk of stomach-related side effects.

Ibuprofen (Motrin, Motrin IB, Advil) is a Short-Acting NSAID

Ibuprofen is a short-acting NSAID, with a relatively quick onset of action. It is better suited for the treatment of acute pain, and is the most appropriate NSAID for children. Ibuprofen tablets/capsules need to be given every four to six hours.

Risk of Gastrointestinal Side Effects with Ibuprofen (Motrin, Motrin IB, Advil) is Low Compared With Some Other NSAIDs

Research has discovered that the risk of gastrointestinal (GI) side effects such as stomach ulcers and stomach bleeding increases the longer somebody takes NSAIDS. Ibuprofen is less likely to cause GI side effects because it is short-acting. To reduce the risk of GI side effects, NSAIDS should only be taken at their lowest effective dose, for the shortest possible time. Doubling up on NSAIDs (for example taking both Aleve and Motrin at the same time or adding in a different type of NSAID such as Aleve) is unnecessary, and to be avoided as it increases the risk of both GI and cardiovascular side effects. If you are prescribed low-dose aspirin to reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke, then talk to your doctor BEFORE taking NSAIDs, as these may negate the protective effects of aspirin.

NSAIDs Increase the Risk Of Cardiovascular Side Effects

Another worrying side effect of some NSAIDs is an increased risk of cardiovascular events such as a heart attack. Research has identified that those NSAIDs that have more of a tendency to block COX-2 compared to COX-1 have an increased risk of thrombosis (blood clotting). Low-dose ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin in dosages up to 1200mg per day) has a low risk of causing adverse cardiovascular events. However, higher dosages of ibuprofen (up to the recommended maximum of 2400mg/day) are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular events. People who have already had a heart attack or stroke should talk to their doctor before using NSAIDs. One study showed that even one or two doses of ibuprofen or diclofenac (another NSAID) increased the risk of another cardiovascular event. NSAIDS should also not be used after coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery and all NSAIDS carry a warning that they can increase the risk of cardiovascular events, so should only be used under a doctor's supervision, particularly in people with a history of heart disease. Reassuringly, the risk of a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack, stroke, or death is extremely small when NSAIDs are prescribed for short periods of time - such as for a musculoskeletal injury - in people at low cardiovascular risk.

Other Side Effects Common to all NSAIDs

All NSAIDs have been associated with kidney toxicity and allergic-type reactions. NSAIDs also interact with other medications including angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin-II receptor blockers (ARBs), diuretics, clopidogrel, warfarin, dabigatran and aspirin.

Bottom Line

In summary, Motrin, Motrin IB and Advil are all brands of ibuprofen so are equally effective. Because they are the same drug, Motrin, Motrin IB and Advil should NOT be taken together as this increases the risk of side effects such as stomach ulcers and bleeding. Motrin and Advil should also not be taken together with other NSAIDs such as Aleve (naproxen). Ibuprofen (Motrin, Motrin IB, Aleve) is less likely to adversely effect the heart if taken in dosages less than 1200mg/day.

Important Guidance

When taking any NSAID, the following guidance is given:

  • Acetaminophen is preferred over NSAIDs, when appropriate
  • If a NSAID is deemed necessary, take only the lowest possible dose for the shortest possible time
  • Naproxen (in dosages up to 1000mg/day) and ibuprofen (in dosages up to 1200mg/day) are the preferred NSAIDs. Ibuprofen is the most appropriate NSAID for children
  • Avoid using long-acting formulations of NSAIDs as these have a higher risk of GI side effects
  • Do not take any other NSAID-containing products while being treated with an NSAID
  • Doctors should review the need for continued NSAID administration at each consultation
  • In people with pre-existing heart disease or who have suffered a heart attack or stroke, NSAIDS should only be used with caution and only under a doctor's supervision
  • Older patients, patients with type 2 diabetes or with a history of stomach ulcers, kidney problems or at risk for heart disease are more likely to suffer from NSAID-related complications such as GI side effects, cardiovascular events, and kidney toxicity. NSAIDS should be avoided, but if deemed necessary, their usage should be monitored by a doctor.

See also: Drugs.com Compare Tool - Advil vs Motrin

References
  1. Laura Dean, MD. Comparing NSAIDs. Pubmed Clinical Q & A. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK45590/
  2. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Making safer treatment choices BPAC NZ http://www.bpac.org.nz/BPJ/2013/October/nsaids.aspx
  3. Coxib and traditional NSAID Trialists' (CNT) Collaboration, Bhala N, Emberson J, Merhi A, et al. Vascular and upper gastrointestinal effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: meta-analyses of individual participant data from randomised trials. Lancet. 2013 Aug 31;382(9894):769-79. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60900-9. Epub 2013 May 30. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23726390
  4. Advil (ibuprofen) [Package Insert]. Pfizer Consumer Healthcare. Revised 06/2010 https://www.drugs.com/pro/advil.html
  5. Ibuprofen [Package Insert] Revised 07/2015 Alivio Medical Products, LLC https://www.drugs.com/pro/alivio.html
  6. Ong CKS, Lirk P, Tan CH, Seymour RA. An Evidence-Based Update on Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs. Clin Med Res. 2007 Mar; 5(1): 19–34. doi: 10.3121/cmr.2007.698. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1855338/#

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