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Ibuprofen – just because it’s freely available, doesn’t make it safe

Not CLL related, but more along the lines of where familiarity may result in us overlooking something we've long considered safe to take and which may longer be the case when we start taking other drugs for comorbidities that become more likely as we age... Paulina Stehlik, Associate lecturer, University of Sydney explains how Ibruprofen works and situations where alternative pain killers may be more appropriate:


Note particularly in the side effects section:

"Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs can cause gastric upset if taken on an empty stomach, so should always be taken with food. This is why paracetamol is usually recommended in the first instance for aches, pains and fevers. It has fewer gastric side effects and in most cases is just as effective as NSAIDs.

While reducing prostaglandin production results in ibuprofen’s therapeutic effects, prolonged reduction in prostaglandin production due to chronic NSAID use decreases the secretion of protective substances in the gut, changes platelet activity and decreases filtration rate and blood flow in the kidneys.

This can result in gastric ulcers and bleeds, increased blood pressure, decreased kidney function and renal failure, heart failure and cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and stroke. This is why all NSAIDs are recommended for short-term use only unless under the supervision of a medical practitioner.

You must see a doctor immediately if after taking ibuprofen you experience swollen ankles, difficulty breathing, chest pain, black or red stools, or dark, coffee-coloured vomit."

The Interactions section is also worth a read.


11 Replies

Is there a recommended OTC pain killer for the occasional headache/bodyache? I have gone back to aspirin after hearing so many bad things about NSAIDS.


Aspirin is an NSAID...  specifically a Cox 1 inhibitor... Aspirin also has an antiplatelet effect by stopping the binding together of platelets. Know your OTC meds and talk to your doctor for guidance...


There is one caveat to the article and that is the daily use of 81mg aspirin as a blood thinner... but again it is important to monitor on a continual basis...


Darn - and I thought that since it was old school it would be more benign.


Dear Neil,

I rarely take pain medicine but when I do it's usually 2 regular aspirin.  Aspirin may have other health benefits as well in terms of other cancers and in heart disease.  In general it is best to limit all OTC medicine including aspirin unless really needed.  Ibuprofen has it's risks and should be used wisely.  It is crazy how many OTC meds have this added.  So if you don't read the label you risk taking too much.  Great article and a good reminder to everyone to respect OTC meds too! 




If aspirin came up for FDA approval today, I wonder if the FDA would approve it.  Maybe it could be taken only with a prescription.

1 like

I wish they would do more natural trials.  My heart goes out to all the people taking these drugs right now.


Hi Helen, I agree with you that I wish more trials could be done, to find safer treatments  with less side effects. 

But just because something is "natural" doesn't mean it is safe and without side effects.  Natural products also have their dangers...   Aspirin was originally a natural product, found in extracts from willow bark. But in certain situations and doses it can be dangerous (eg stomach irritation and affecting  blood clotting).  Paracetomol (not derived from anything natural) is probably safer, as long as people don't overdose on it. 


Digoxin was first found in foxglove plants, and used to help heart patients.  But wrong dosages could be fatal.  


Most of the things that start as being "natural" have to be refined and doses worked out to make sure they are as safe as possible.  People need to know exactly what strength of active ingredient is contained in what they're taking.  Then the product becomes a manufactured drug and is not "natural" any more, but is usually safer than its more natural form. 

Dr Jeff Sharman talks about this sort of thing. 


Best wishes, 



The body sees everything as a chemical... natural or synthetic.  You see water, your body sees H2O.

Case in point, I had the opportunity to have the drug vincristine an extract from the Madagascar periwinkle... wonderful purple flowers... and the upshot was it caused severe peripheral neuropathy for life and I now have trouble walking... (drop foot).

Totally natural... 😟 side effects.



But there are many plant based drugs being looked at in CLL, gossypol, PIETC from watercress, an extract from marigolds, Neem tree oil, resveratrol, and a bunch of others... even EGCG from green tea, a mild chemotherapy... 💊

Another example... gossypol, found in cotton seeds... highly toxic if you were to eat it... however feed it to a cow and drink the milk, and gossypol reduces leukocyte counts in CLL...  that was how it was discouvered in South Africa 10 years ago.

The cow has been removed from the process and gossypol is altered in the lab to be non toxic and is currently called AT-101 and is in a number of clinical trials for CLL... 







Thank you!


It is well worth reading how Aspirin was developed to provide a more potent drug with less irritating side effects here: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/His...

and here: pharmaceutical-journal.com/...

Note the huge number of clinicatrials each year for a drug developed over 100 years ago from a natural plant based substance.


1 like

Thank you!


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