painkillers in UK - Naproxen diclofenac ebuprofen - ashcroft pharmacy

Top 3 OTC Painkillers in The UK - Ashcroft Pharmacy

Share This:

NSAIDS  are Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that are a class of medication widely used to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and bring down fever.

These drugs are available either by buying them over-the-counter or by a prescription by a medical practitioner. The drugs are cost effective and relieve pain in a short period thus making them popularly used around the world.

Different Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are classified according to their strength and dosage.

What are NSAIDs drugs and how do they work?

NSAID drugs are a type of pain reliever that helps to reduce fever and inflammation. They work out by blocking COX which produces the protein prostaglandins.

This protein is responsible for pain and inflammation. The medication relieves pain, fever, and inflammation by blocking and lowering the prostaglandins.

Best 3 over-the-counter NSAIDs

Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)

This is one of the most commonly used NSAIDs to treat headaches, muscle aches, arthritis, menstrual cramps, and minor injuries.

It is available both over-the-counter and by prescription. The typical OTC dosage for ibuprofen is 200mg pill and 100 mg|5 mL lih is used to treat fever and minor aches and pains. 

The prescription-strength dosage of ibuprofen which is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, dysmenorrhea {and painful menstrual cramps} is 400mg and higher.

Ibuprofen which is available in both pills and liquids is safe for children as young as 6 months old. This OTC works quickly and is generally well-tolerated. It does not last very long in the body thus lower doses may need to be taken every 4-6 hours while higher doses may need to be taken every 6 to 8 hours.

Although ibuprofen is generally safe, prolonged use can lead to gastrointestinal issues, such as ulcers or bleeding, and cardiovascular risks.

Naproxen (Aleve, Naproysyn)

Naproxen is another potent NSAID that is effective for the treatment of chronic conditions like arthritis due to its longer duration of action.

This medication is also used to relieve muscle pain, back pain, dental pain, and menstrual cramps. Naproxen is available in 220 mg oral pill for the OTC. This drug is labeled to treat people with 12 years and above. 

The prescription naproxen is approved to treat more health conditions than the OTC version which include rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, gout attacks, dysmenorrhea, mild to moderate pain.

Since naproxen has a longer-lasting effect of 12 hours compared to ibuprofen which lasts for 6-8 hours, it requires less frequent dosing. However, it also carries similar risks of gastrointestinal and cardiovascular side effects.

Aspirin (Bayer, Bufferin)

Asprin has been in circulation for a long period of more than a hundred years. It used to be a popular choice for the treatment of pain but over the years newer NSAIDs have become the go-to for that purpose.

Asprin is unique among NSAIDs for its ability to reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke when taken in low doses of about 100 mg for a long period.

Asprin is available in tablet form and you can find some that are coated to reduce stomach irritation. It is also available in chewable tablets, oral capsules, and rectal suppositories.

Asprin is not recommended for children and teens under the age of 19 years for it can cause a rare condition called Reye’s syndrome. which can cause life-threatening brain swelling and organ damage.

Other NSAIDs available in the UK

Meloxicam (Mobic)

this is a prescription NSAID that has fewer FDA-approved uses. This medication is approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis in adults, Osteoarthritis in adults, and juvenile idiopathic arthritis in children.

Mobic is available as a capsule, tablet, and oral liquid and is taken only once a day.

Ketorolac (Torado)

This is one of the strongest NSAIDs, which is used for short-term management of moderate to severe pain, often post-surgery.

This drug is a prescription-only medicine and is not available over the counter.

Diclofenac (Voltaren)

Diclofenac is a prescription-only drug that is highly potent, and effective for treating chronic inflammatory conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. 

Diclofenac has different forms which are FDA-approved to treat different conditions. They include; 

Diclofenac sodium delayed-release (DR) tablets: Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis in adults

Diclofenac sodium extended-release (ER) tablets: Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis in adults

Diclofenac potassium capsules (Zipsor): Mild to moderate pain in people ages 12 years and older
OTC diclofenac 1% gel (voltaren): Osteoarthritis joint pain

Diclofenac 1.5% and 2% topical solutions: Osteoarthritis knee pain

Diclofenac 3% gel: Actinic keratoses (abnormal skin growths)

Diclofenac patch (reflector): Pain from minor strains, sprains, and bruises

Diclofenac eye drops: Pain or sensitivity after cataract or corneal surgery

Diclofenac potassium tablets (Cataflam, Lofena): Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and mild to moderate pain in adults

Diclofenac potassium powder (Cambia): migraine attacks in adults

Diclofenac capsules (Zorvolex): Osteoarthritis and mild to moderate pain in adults.

Indomethacin (indocin)

This is a strong prescription only NSAIDs which is used primarily for severe inflammatory conditions like gout and ankylosing spondylitis.

Celecoxib (celebrex)

Celecoxib is a prescription NSAID that comes as an oral capsule branded as a Celebrex and as a liquid branded Elyxyb which is FDA-approved to treat migraines only. However, the capsule form is approved for uses like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, dysmenorrhea, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in children 2 years and older, and short-term treatment of other painful conditions.

Celecoxib is less likely to cause stomach ulcers or bleeding for it works differently than the other NSAIDs. However, it is linked to a higher risk of heart problems than many other NSAIDs.


This is a very powerful prescription NSAID that is intended to be used for a few days to treat moderate or severe pain. This drug is used in place of opioids and is ministered first through injection in the hospital or healthcare facility. Then the patient continues at home in the form of arola tablet or a nasal spray.


This is an NSAID that is prescription only and it comes either in an oral capsule, an oral liquid, or rectal suppositories. In the healthcare facilities, the indomethacin is used in its injectable version. Indocin is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, shoulder pain due to bursitis or tendinitis, and gout attacks.

Classification of NSAIDs

The classification of NSAIDs is dependent on their chemical structure and the specific enzymes they inhibit. Most of the NSAIDs inhibit cox enzymes, COX-1 and COX-2, which play a role in inflammation and pain.

They are Non-selective  NSAIDs- they inhibit both COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes. These NSAIDs are effective for pain and inflammation but have higher risks of gastrointestinal side effects.

The selective COX-2 inhibitors - these NSAIDs inhibit the COX-2 enzymes, which reduces inflammation with fewer gastrointestinal side effects but may have higher cardiovascular risk. The medication with these characteristics includes celecoxib.


Having an understanding of the best over-the-counter NSAIDs, their effectiveness, and how they are classified helps in making informed decisions about managing pain and inflammation. The top OTC preferences are ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin and each has its strengths and considerations. If you use NSAIDs appropriately and are aware of their potential side effects, you will effectively manage inflammation and pain, improving your overall quality of life.


What are the top three over-the-counter NSAIDs?

The top three OTC NSAIDs are ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin (Bayer, Bufferin).
What conditions can ibuprofen treat?

Ibuprofen treats headaches, muscle aches, arthritis, menstrual cramps, and minor injuries. It is also used for fever and minor aches and pains.

How often should ibuprofen be taken?

OTC ibuprofen is typically taken every 4-6 hours at lower doses, and every 6-8 hours at higher doses.

What are the risks of prolonged NSAID use?

Prolonged use of NSAIDs can lead to gastrointestinal issues like ulcers or bleeding and cardiovascular risks.

Why is naproxen considered effective for chronic conditions?

Naproxen has a longer duration of action (up to 12 hours), making it effective for chronic conditions like arthritis with less frequent dosing compared to ibuprofen.

How does aspirin differ from other NSAIDs?

Aspirin is unique in its ability to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes when taken in low doses over a long period.

Who should avoid taking aspirin?

Aspirin should not be given to children and teens under 19 due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome, a serious condition that can cause brain swelling and organ damage.

What are the classifications of NSAIDs?

NSAIDs are classified into non-selective NSAIDs (inhibit both COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes) and selective COX-2 inhibitors (inhibit only COX-2 enzymes, reducing inflammation with fewer gastrointestinal side effects but potentially higher cardiovascular risk).

What are some examples of prescription-only NSAIDs?

Prescription-only NSAIDs include meloxicam (Mobic), ketorolac (Toradol), diclofenac (Voltaren), indomethacin (Indocin), and celecoxib (Celebrex). These are used for more severe or chronic conditions and have varying forms and approved uses.