Paracetamol or Ibuprofen? Let’s find out the differences

taking paracetamol or ibuprofen pills - prendere pastiglie di paracetamolo o ibuprofene

Fever, sore throat, or cold are among the most common ailments for human beings. Two extremely popular and marketed APIs are used for these problems: Paracetamol and Ibuprofen

Despite their popularity, patients often confuse these drugs, especially if they are not fully aware of their differences. This is because they are both used to treat similar symptoms, which can lead people to consider them equivalent. But this is not the case: acetaminophen and ibuprofen are two distinct drugs that act in different ways. In the following article, we delve into this difference and shed light on this common mistake.

What is Paracetamol?

Paracetamol was first synthesized by U.S. chemist Harmon Northrop Morse in 1878. However, its first use in the medical field dates only from the 1950s.

It is an analgesic drug with antipyretic properties. This allows it to act on the central nervous system, particularly on serotonin-related mechanisms. This way, paracetamol reduces the body’s sensation of pain and lowers body temperature by inhibiting the synthesis of prostaglandins, molecules involved in inflammatory diseases.

How is paracetamol used?

Because of its effects, paracetamol is a valuable ally against mild to moderate pain and is used to lower fever. In particular, the use of paracetamol is recommended for:

  • headaches;
  • muscle pain;
  • pains related to the menstrual cycle;
  • sore throat;
  • back pain;
  • toothache;
  • arthrosis;
  • reactions to vaccinations.

The drug is generally marketed in oral or rectal consumption products. Although regular use of acetaminophen has no serious side effects, it should not be abused, as excessive intake can cause serious liver damage.

What is Ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen‘s emergence is more recent than that of paracetamol: its first synthesis was carried out in 1961 by Stewart Adams, a U.S. chemist, during his research for a drug suitable for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

The function of ibuprofen is anti-inflammatory, categorizing it in the broader family of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). The drug works by blocking the activity of the cyclooxygenase enzymes Cox-1 and Cox-2, which play a role in the manifestation of pain, inflammation, and fever.

How is Ibuprofen used?

Given its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, ibuprofen is used for a variety of ailments, many of them similar to the applications of paracetamol:

  • headaches;
  • neuralgia;
  • pains related to the menstrual cycle;
  • musculoskeletal pain;
  • trauma pain;
  • postpartum and postoperative pain.

It can also be used as an antipyretic and integrated into therapy for the following conditions:

  • osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis;
  • ankylosing spondylitis;
  • scapulohumeral periarthritis;
  • extra-articular rheumatism;
  • myositis;
  • lumbago;
  • sciatica;
  • radiculopathy;
  • fibrositis;
  • tenosynovitis;
  • Still’s disease.

As with paracetamol, keeping the dosage within safe limits does not incur any particular side effects, however, it should not be taken in combination with acetylsalicylic acid as it reduces its efficacy.


What are the differences between paracetamol and ibuprofen?

The similarities between the two drugs are many, and this may cause confusion. They are both widely prescribed and marketed over-the-counter drugs and are often used for the same conditions, united mainly by their pain-relieving function.

Nevertheless, it is good not to confuse them as they act distinctly on the body and, therefore, require different precautions. Ibuprofen boasts an anti-inflammatory effect that paracetamol does not offer, which is why it is most recommended when an inflammation needs to be acted upon. Application cases in which ibuprofen is recommended are various forms of arthritis, nonrheumatic inflammation, and menstrual pain. The drug is not safe for pregnant women and for those taking antihypertensive or anticoagulant medications.

In contrast, paracetamol can also be used during pregnancy, and it is most effective for those with mild to moderate fever and pain. It is particularly effective for toothache, bone pain, post-surgical pain, musculoskeletal pain, and headaches not resulting from migraine. In general, acetaminophen is particularly recognized for its ability to lower fever.

Flarer’s role in the distribution of Paracetamol and Ibuprofen

Our company has enriched its pharmaceutical API portfolio over more than 30 years through a rich network of partnerships with European and non-European manufacturers. We passionately assist those who turn to our expertise by closely following the different stages of ibuprofen and paracetamol supply. 

In particular, we deal with scouting, auditing, regulatory support activities, import licensing, manage logistics, and support analytical processes and CROs.

To find out more information, you can contact our consultants, who will be able to find ad hoc solutions curated at 360°.

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