Jenny L. F. Andrus, MD
In this three-part-article series, I’ll discuss a pain-relieving workhorse, ibuprofen, which is classified as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or NSAID. It works by reducing the amount of pain and inflammation-causing hormones circulating in the bloodstream, commonly known as a COX inhibitor. It appropriate for mild to moderate levels of pain and can be administered in low doses in anyone above 6 months of age.
Ibuprofen is a relatively new drug, discovered by two researchers at the British Pharmaceutical and Retail Chemists firm, Boots UK Ltd., in 1961. Fun fact – one of the researchers, Dr. Stewart Adams, began testing the mixture of chemical components derived from propionic acid as a potential cure for his hangovers. Well, it worked, and a patent was obtained in 1961, lasting until 1985, when generic ibuprofen began to be marketed to the public. Dr. Adams was later awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) and made a Knight of the Realm by Queen Elizabeth for his contributions to medicine and science in 1987.
Ibuprofen became available in the United States in 1974, marketed as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and was available by prescription only. It soon became apparent that its uses for pain and inflammation were a bit more varied and ibuprofen soon became one of the most widely prescribed pain relievers in America. In 1983-84, it was the second NSAID, after aspirin, to be made available to the public over the counter. In 2020, it was still the 38th most physician prescribed drug in the United States, even when available over the counter.
Today, ibuprofen is typically prescribed by doctors for the following issues:
Fever Arthritis Pain
Post-surgical Pain Dental Pain
Menstrual Cramps Headache
Kidney Stone Pain Acute Low Back Pain
Nowadays, most of us keep a bottle of ibuprofen in our medicine cabinets and take one whenever we have an ache or pain, or maybe even a hangover, like Dr. Adams did. Ibuprofen can be administered orally (tablet, capsule, liquid) or administered by IV, when necessary. It typically works within 60 minutes when taken orally (sooner when administered intravenously) and has efficacy in most patients.
In the next installment of this series of articles about ibuprofen, I’ll discuss the known risks and side effects involved in taking the drug, allergic reactions, and interactions with other drugs.