Pain relief drugs: Panadol and Nurofen

Drug companies have convinced consumers to pay much more for paracetamol and ibuprofen than they need to.
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05.Ibuprofen vs paracetamol: dosage

While Panadol and Nurofen are the two main competitors in over-the-counter painkillers, they’re actually two different products that work differently to relieve pain. Ever since ibuprofen was made available for sale on supermarket shelves in 2004, ibuprofen sales have given paracetamol products some competition. But it’s not always the best drug for the job. 

When should you take what?

In many cases paracetamol and ibuprofen can be used interchangeably. While it’s still not known exactly how paracetamol works, it’s considered safer than ibuprofen in most individuals according to Peterson and also costs less. 

But there are instances where ibuprofen may be a better choice, says Vagg. As an anti-inflammatory, it’s preferred for inflammatory injuries such as sprains. Vagg also recommends it for headaches if you get them several times a week to prevent headaches from medication overuse. Ibuprofen should be avoided by people with stomach problems such as ulcers, high blood pressure, heart failure, asthma or those who are pregnant. 

Vagg says there are a number of studies suggesting a combination of one paracetamol and one ibuprofen tablet is more effective for acute pain such as headaches, than either treatment alone (this doesn’t apply to persistent or chronic pain like arthritis). Maxigesic is a new product combining ibuprofen and paracetamol and hit the shelves in March this year, but for now it’s quite pricey. 

How much is safe?

An array of generic looking pain relief pills
  • Paracetamol 4000mg in 24 hours (8 standard 500mg paracetamol tablets or 6 slow-release 665mg tablets) 
  • Ibuprofen 800mg of ibuprofen in 24 hours (4 standard 200mg ibuprofen tablets)

Wondering if pain relief medicines from overseas are safe?


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