What is the difference between prescription ibuprofen and over-the-counter ibuprofen?

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There is no therapeutic difference between prescription ibuprofen and over-the-counter (OTC) ibuprofen other than strength.

OTC ibuprofen pills are 200 mg while the prescription pills are 800 mg. You should get the same therapeutic effect whether you take four OTC 200 mg pills or just one prescription 800 mg pill. The only non-therapeutic minor difference might be that you ingest more fillers if you take four of the OTC pills.

200 mg Ibuprofen pills
200 mg Ibuprofen pills

The reason why a stronger prescription variation even exists comes down to side effects. The average person may not be aware that ibuprofen can have significant renal and gastrointestinal side effects at higher doses. Anyone taking ibuprofen at these higher doses needs to be under the care of a doctor and closely supervised while taking it.

Another reason you might want the prescription variation is that it could be cheaper if your insurance covers most of the cost.

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INTERESTING FACTS
  1. When ibuprofen was approved for OTC use in the United States in 1984, it was the first new OTC pain relief medication to enter the marketplace in over a generation.
  2. Ibuprofen usually causes fewer stomach problems than aspirin.
  3. Ibuprofen was first marketed as an anti-arthritis drug under the name Motrin.
INTERESTING VIDEO

INTERESTING REFERENCES
  1. CBI.NLM.NIH.gov – Ibuprofen: a journey from prescription to over-the-counter use
  2. Reddit.com – ELI5: Why does my doctor prescribe me 800mg ibuprofen when he could just tell me to take 4 200mg pills? Is there something better about 1 800mg pill over 4 200mg pills?
  3. Encyclopedia.com – Ibuprofen

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