Ibuprofen Versus Naproxen – Understanding The Nuances

When it comes to managing pain, inflammation, or fever, many of us reach for over-the-counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen. While these medications serve similar purposes, understanding their differences is crucial for making informed choices about their usage. From kinetics to potential risks and benefits, let’s delve into the disparities between ibuprofen and naproxen.


Both ibuprofen and naproxen belong to the NSAID class, yet they have distinct kinetic properties. Ibuprofen exhibits a shorter half-life, typically around 1.8 to 2.4 hours, compared to naproxen, which boasts a longer half-life ranging from 12 to 17 hours (as per micromedex). This variance influences dosing frequency; ibuprofen is usually taken every 4 to 6 hours, while naproxen is administered every 12 hours. This could be especially beneficial for specific populations like; elderly patients, patients with renal impairments or chronic pain patients. A less frequent dosing schedule can improve medication adherence, reduce pill burden, provide sustained relief, and reduce overall renal exposure in these patients.

GI Risk – Ibuprofen Versus Naproxen

One of the primary concerns with NSAID use is the potential for gastrointestinal (GI) adverse effects, including bleeding and ulcers. Research suggests that naproxen may carry a slightly higher risk of GI bleeding compared to ibuprofen due to its longer acting effect. However, both medications can irritate the stomach lining, particularly with prolonged or high-dose usage. To mitigate this risk, it’s advisable to take NSAIDs with food or use gastroprotective agents like proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) when necessary.

Comparing Cardiovascular Risk

Interestingly, while NSAIDs are primarily known for their analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, they also exhibit varying effects on cardiovascular health. Some studies suggest that naproxen may offer a lower risk of cardiovascular events as compared to Ibuprofen.

According to a recent UK study (by Bhala N et al.) that was conducted to analyze the vascular and gastrointestinal effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, Ibuprofen use was linked with a significant increase in major coronary events as compared to Naproxen in individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular conditions. Due to Naproxen having a slightly lower cardiovascular risk compared to Ibuprofen, it’s usually the preferred agent in patients with higher cardiovascular risk. It’s however important to note that the cardiovascular effects of NSAIDs are complex and may vary based on factors such as dosage, duration of use, and individual health status.


In summary, both ibuprofen and naproxen are effective NSAIDs commonly used to alleviate pain and inflammation. However, they differ in kinetics, GI bleed risk, and cardiovascular risk . When selecting between ibuprofen versus naproxen, factors such as dosing frequency, GI tolerance, and cardiovascular health should be carefully considered. As with any medication, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate treatment approach based on individual needs and medical history.

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This article was written by Jack Mageto, PharmD Candidate in collaboration with Eric Christianson, PharmD, BCPS, BCGP

Popular Amazon Books


  • Naproxen, IBM Micromedex® DrugPoint Summary (electronic version). IBM Watson Health, Greenwood Village, Colorado, USA. Available at: https://www-micromedexsolutions-com.ezp3.lib.umn.edu (accessed: February 21, 2024).
  • Ibuprofen, IBM Micromedex® DrugPoint Summary (electronic version). IBM Watson Health, Greenwood Village, Colorado, USA. Available at: https://www-micromedexsolutions-com.ezp3.lib.umn.edu (accessed: February 21, 2024).
  • Angiolillo DJ, Weisman SM. Clinical Pharmacology and Cardiovascular Safety of Naproxen. Am J Cardiovasc Drugs. 2017 Apr;17(2):97-107. doi: 10.1007/s40256-016-0200-5. PMID: 27826802; PMCID: PMC5340840.
  • Bhala N, Emberson J, Merhi A, et al. Vascular and upper gastrointestinal effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: meta-analyses of individual participant data from randomised trials. Lancet. 2013;382:769–779. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60900-9.
  • US National Institutes of Health. Prospective Randomized Evaluation of Celecoxib Integrated Safety versus Ibuprofen Or Naproxen (PRECISION). ClinicalTrials.gov. Available at: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00346216. Accessed February 21, 2024)


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Written By Eric Christianson

February 28, 2024

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