OTC Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) | Amanda Ngo, PharmD Intern | RxEconsult

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Over The Counter Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) Category: Pain Management by - November 4, 2016 | Views: 23171 | Likes: 1 | Comment: 0  


What are NSAIDS and What are They Used For? 

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are pain medications that are available over-the-counter (OTC) as well as with a prescription. These medications reduce pain, inflammation, and fever. NSAIDs are used for relief of mild to moderate pain associated with:

  • Headache
  • Common Cold
  • Toothache
  • Muscle ache
  • Backache
  • Arthritis
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Flu
  • Exercise injuries
  • Other types of mild to moderate pain

How NSAIDs work

NSAIDs block the activity of Cyclooxygenases (COX) enzymes. Cyclooxygenases enzymes produced prostaglandins which involved in the processes that result in fever, inflammation, pain, blood clotting.  There are 2 types of COX enzymes. Both COX enzymes produce prostaglandins that promote fever, inflammation, and pain. However, COX-1 activity also leads to production prostaglandins that affect clumping of blood platelets and protection of the stomach lining. NSAIDs reduce fevers, inflammation, and pain by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins by cyclooxygenases. Blocking the production of prostaglandins also reduces the ability to form blood clots and weakens the protective mucus layer that protects the stomach. The is why NSAIDs cause bleeding and gastrointestinal ulcers.  

Side Effects of NSAIDs

Common side effects associated with the use of NSAIDs include: 

  • constipation,
  • rash,
  • drowsiness,
  • dizziness,
  • headache,
  • diarrhea,
  • indigestion,
  • heartburn, 
  • nausea, 
  • decreased appetite, and 
  • gastrointestinal upset 

Serious side effects of NSAIDs include:

  • serious bleeding
  • stomach and intestinal ulcers
  • kidney failure
  • liver failure
  • edema
  • allergic reactions
  • shortness of breath

Taking these medications with food can reduce these effects. NSAIDs also cause ulcers and gastrointestinal perforation if used for extended periods of time. They have also been associated with increased risk of serious cardiovascular thrombotic events such as heart attacks and strokes, which can be fatal.

Individuals who have an allergy to a particular NSAID should be careful when taking a different one as there may be cross-sensitivity.

These OTC medications should not be used for more than 10 consecutive days without medical supervision.



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