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Why is diclofenac only available on prescription but ibuprofen can be bought over the counter?

Is there a big difference between them?

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com Last updated on Nov 6, 2018.

Official Answer

by Drugs.com

Ibuprofen is not as potent as diclofenac and is a safer choice for the general public, hence the decision to restrict the availability of diclofenac. If ibuprofen is ineffective then you should see your doctor for something stronger.

Both diclofenac and ibuprofen are available in various strengths.

In the USA only the lower strength tablet ibuprofen 200mg is available over the counter (OTC), the 400mg and 600mg tablets are prescription medicines.

Diclofenac is only available by prescription in the USA but in some countries a lower dose 25mg tablet is available OTC. A 25mg diclofenac tablet used to be available OTC in the USA but was withdrawn because of safety and efficacy reasons.

Both ibuprofen and diclofenac are in a group of drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They work by reducing hormones that cause inflammation and pain in the body.

Diclofenac is also available OTC in the USA (and in many other countries) as a topical gel under the brand name Voltaren Arthritis Pain (diclofenac sodium topical gel, 1%). The gel is used for the temporary relief of arthritis pain in the hand, wrist, elbow, foot, ankle or knee in adults 18 years and older.

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