Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are mainly used to treat pain and inflammation caused by injury, or by conditions such as gout, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, headache, dental pain and period pain. NSAIDs have several side effects and may not be suitable for people who are pregnant or people with stomach problems, asthma, heart, liver or kidney problems. Before taking NSAIDs, check with your healthcare provider if they are suitable for you. Read more about when you should NOT take NSAIDs.
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Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories drugs (NSAIDs)
Key points about Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)
- NSAIDs are a type of pain relief medication that are used for pain caused by inflammation.
- Signs of inflammation include redness, warmth, swelling, and pain.
- Find out how to take NSAIDs safely and possible side effects.
|Examples of NSAIDs available in New Zealand|
Many NSAIDs can be bought from your pharmacy without a prescription and some, such as ibuprofen, can be bought from the supermarket. NSAIDs are also available on prescription.
- NSAIDs are usually available as tablets or capsules, some are available as a syrup and some are available as gels or creams that can be massaged into the painful area.
- Aspirin is also an NSAID, but it is mainly prescribed in low doses to help to keep the blood from clotting, eg, for people who have had a heart attack in the past. Low dose aspirin is also called Aspec® or Cartia®.
- Take them with food or immediately after food, to prevent stomach upset.
- Use the lowest dose for the shortest time to provide pain relief.
- Don't take more than the recommended dose and don't use over-the-counter NSAIDs for longer than 2 to 3 days without checking if it is safe with your healthcare provider.
- Don't take more than 1 type of NSAID at a time. Some other medicines also contain NSAIDs, including some cold and flu preparations, so always read the label or ask your pharmacist.
- Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you are taking before you buy any type of pain relief.
- Before taking NSAIDs, check with your healthcare provider that they're right for you.
Depending on the NSAID and the condition being treated, some may work within an hour or two, but with others it could take more time before you feel the full benefit. NSAIDs that are used short-term may need to be taken every 4 to 6 hours because of their short action time. For osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis needing long-term treatment, long-acting NSAIDs that only need to be taken once or twice a day may be used.
NSAIDs are safe for most people but extra care is needed in some situations. Examples include if:
- you have high blood pressure
- you have heart or kidney problems or asthma
- you're aged 65 years or older
- you smoke.
The main risks of NSAIDs are how they affect your stomach, heart and kidneys. Read more about the risks of NSAIDs.
|When you should NOT take NSAIDs|
NSAIDs should NOT be used in some situations as they can be harmful.
Read more about the risks associated with NSAIDs.
|Side effects||What should I do?|
|Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product.(external link)|
The following links provide more information about NSAIDs. Be aware that websites from other countries may have information that differs from New Zealand recommendations.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)(external link) Rheuminfo
Anti-inflammatory Painkillers(external link) Patient info, UK
The triple whammy(external link) SafeRx, Waitematā DHB, NZ
Avoiding anti-inflammatories when taking blood pressure medicines [PDF, 203 KB] University of Otago, NZ, 2021
5 questions to ask about your medications(external link)(external link)(external link) Health Quality and Safety Commission, NZ, 2019 English(external link)(external link)(external link) Te reo Māori(external link)(external link)(external link)
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(external link) New Zealand Formulary
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): making safer treatment choices(external link) BPAC, October 2013, New Zealand
- NSAIDs and heart disease(external link) Medsafe Publications, December 2017, NZ
- NSAIDs and acute kidney injury(external link) Medsafe Publications, June 2013, NZ
- Reducing the risk of GI reactions with NSAIDs and/or COX-2 inhibitors(external link) Medsafe Publications, December 2010, NZ
Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.
Reviewed by: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland
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