Is Prescription Naproxen The Same As Over The Counter Naproxen?

In our latest question and answer, the pharmacist discusses whether or not you can substitute prescription and over the counter naproxen.

Question

If you are out of the prescription pills your doctor have given that has no refills, can you always by the alternative on the shelf ? For example, if you are out of Naproxen 375mg, can you get the alternative which is Aleve for 375mg?

Asked by cece On Apr 23, 2018

Answered by
Medical Content Reviewed By PharmacistAnswers Staff

On Apr 23, 2018

Naproxen is available in both prescription strength and as an over the counter medication. Over the counter naproxen (Brand Name Aleve) is available in one strength, 220mg.  Prescription naproxen is available in multiple strengths:

  • 375mg
  • 500mg
  • 550mg


While higher strengths of naproxen are only available by prescription, over the counter naproxen is still the same drug, and you could technically take multiple 220mg tablets to receive a higher dose. 


Naproxen

Naproxen s a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) just like Ibuprofen. It is used to alleviate mild to moderate pain, swelling, muscle and joing inflammation and/or fevers. Naproxen reduces the amount of prostaglandins (the chemicals that cause pain & inflammation) by making an enzyme that blocks the prostaglandins. As a result, inflammation, and pain decrease.


Other uses for Naproxen are rheumatoid arthritis, menstrual pain, acute gout and it can be used as an off label medication for migraines.


In addition to the immediate release naproxen products, there are also delayed release naproxen medications dosed once daily as well as enteric coated Naprosyn which is likely the script you're taking, which comes in 375mg to 500mg and is dosed twice daily typically.


Over The Counter Vs. Prescription Naproxen

As over the counter naproxen contains 220mg and prescription naproxen contains 375mg, they are not interchangeable, due to the differing strengths. They are however, the same drug (naproxen).


You can definitely try taking the over the counter 220mg as directed on the label. If you find it is not relieving your symptoms, I would recommend contacting your physician for a new prescription of the 375mg strength. It generally is not a good idea to take two of the over the counter tablets as your doctor prescribed you 375mg for a reason. Higher doses of naproxen can potentially increase the risk of GI side effects.


Lastly, it is important to note that naproxen should be taken with food to avoid stomach irritation.

About the Pharmacist

Dr. Stacy Holcroft

Stacy Holcroft is retail pharmacist specializing in diabetes, heart disease, and oncology. Up to date with new drugs and research in these fields and others.

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