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Drug vs. Drug

Meloxicam vs. ibuprofen: Differences, similarities, and which is better for you

Gerardo Sison medical writer headshot By | January 15, 2020

Drug overview & main differences | Conditions treated | Efficacy | Insurance coverage and cost comparison | Side effects | Drug interactions | Warnings | FAQ

You may be recommended a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like meloxicam or ibuprofen for pain and inflammation. These drugs decrease the production of prostaglandins, which are substances responsible for pain, fever, and inflammation in the body. Although meloxicam and ibuprofen work in similar ways, they have some differences.

Both meloxicam and ibuprofen are considered nonselective NSAIDs. This means that they both block the COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes. These cyclooxygenase enzymes are responsible for prostaglandin production. However, COX-1 enzyme is also associated with protective effects in the stomach.

What are the main differences between meloxicam vs. ibuprofen?

Meloxicam is a generic medication that can only be taken with a prescription from a doctor. Meloxicam is sometimes known by its brand name, Mobic. It can be used to treat different forms of arthritis in adults and children aged 2 years and older. Meloxicam is usually administered as a once-daily pill.

Ibuprofen is a common over-the-counter (OTC) medication that is used for pain, inflammation, and fever in adults and children aged 6 months and older. Brand names for ibuprofen include Advil, Motrin, and Midol. Ibuprofen can also be prescribed as a higher dose to treat arthritis. Prescription-strength ibuprofen is usually taken every 6 to 8 hours for pain relief.

Main differences between meloxicam and ibuprofen
Meloxicam Ibuprofen
Drug class Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID)
Brand/generic status Generic available Generic available
What is the brand name? Mobic Advil, Motrin, Midol
What form(s) does the drug come in? Oral tablet
Liquid suspension
Oral tablet
Oral capsule
Liquid suspension
What is the standard dosage? 7.5 mg daily 400 to 800 mg every six to eight hours
How long is the typical treatment? Example: 7-14 days Not longer than 10 days or as instructed by your doctor
Who typically uses the medication? Adults and children aged 2 years and older Adults and children aged 6 months and older

Conditions treated by meloxicam vs. ibuprofen

Pain from arthritis is caused by inflammation in the joints. NSAIDs are often used to treat mild to moderate pain that is also chronic in nature. Meloxicam is FDA-approved to treat the most common form of arthritis—osteoarthritis, which affects millions of people each year. Meloxicam is also indicated to treat rheumatoid arthritis in both adults and children (juvenile rheumatoid arthritis) aged 2 years and older. Off-label uses of meloxicam include pain from menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea), general pain, and fever.

Like other NSAIDs, ibuprofen is approved to treat osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and juvenile arthritis. It is safe and effective for adults and children aged 6 months and older. Ibuprofen can also treat dysmenorrhea, fever, and pain from muscle aches and migraines.

NSAIDs should be taken with the medical advice of a healthcare professional. Consult a doctor if you experience any of the following conditions.

Condition Meloxicam Ibuprofen
Osteoarthritis Yes Yes
Rheumatoid arthritis Yes Yes
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis Yes Yes
Dysmenorrhea Off-label Yes
Mild to moderate pain Off-label Yes
Fever Off-label Yes

Is meloxicam or ibuprofen more effective?

Head-to-head trials have not yet been performed with meloxicam and ibuprofen for arthritis. However, meloxicam and ibuprofen were compared in one trial for their effectiveness in dental pain. Meloxicam, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen were given to trial subjects 1 hour before separator placement. No significant differences in effectiveness were found between the drugs. Ultimately, the study concluded that meloxicam was effective with less gastric side effects.

One meta-analysis compared several NSAIDs, including meloxicam, ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, nabumetone, and oxaprozin for arthritic pain. The study found that the NSAIDs were comparable in effectiveness.

While effectiveness is comparable for NSAIDs, someone might prefer using one based on other factors such as its potential for side effects, price, and dosing. Because meloxicam is dosed once daily and can only be taken with a prescription, it may be more potent than ibuprofen. OTC ibuprofen is not as effective as prescription-strength ibuprofen for moderate pain.

Coverage and cost comparison of meloxicam vs. ibuprofen

Meloxicam is covered by most Medicare and insurance plans. As a generic prescription drug, meloxicam can be purchased for an average retail cost of $31.99. When you purchase meloxicam from a pharmacy, you can use a SingleCare discount card to lower the cost to as low as $8.99 for a 30 days supply of 7.5 mg tablets. The actual reduced price may depend on which pharmacy you go to.

Prescription-strength ibuprofen is often covered by insurance plans. However, lower dose OTC ibuprofen is usually not covered because it does not need a prescription. Ibuprofen can cost an average retail price of $14.99. Using a SingleCare coupon can reduce the cost to $3.00 at most pharmacies that take SingleCare discount cards or coupons.

  Meloxicam Ibuprofen
Typically covered by insurance? Yes Yes
Typically covered by Medicare? Yes Yes
Standard dosage 7.5 mg 400-800 mg
Typical Medicare copay $0-$10 $0-$22
SingleCare cost $8-$22 $3-$15

Common side effects of meloxicam vs. ibuprofen

Meloxicam and ibuprofen share many of the same side effects. Like most NSAIDs, meloxicam and ibuprofen can have gastrointestinal side effects such as stomach upset, indigestion, diarrhea, nausea, and gas (flatulence). Common side effects of these NSAIDs also include headaches, dizziness, rash, and edema (swelling of the hands and/or feet).

In addition, side effects of meloxicam include flu-like symptoms and sore throat (pharyngitis). Because meloxicam is partially COX-2 selective, it may have fewer serious gastrointestinal effects.

Serious adverse effects of meloxicam and ibuprofen can include cardiovascular events like heart attack or stroke as well as gastrointestinal events like stomach ulcers and bleeding. Consult your healthcare provider if you experience any serious side effects from these medications.

  Meloxicam Ibuprofen
Side Effect Applicable? Frequency Applicable? Frequency
Stomach pain Yes 20% Yes 1%-3%
Diarrhea Yes 8% Yes 1%-3%
Indigestion Yes 5% Yes 1%-3%
Flatulence Yes 3% Yes 1%-3%
Nausea Yes 4% Yes 3%-9%
Edema Yes 2% Yes 1%-3%
Flu-like symptoms Yes 5% No
Dizziness Yes 3% Yes 3%-9%
Headache Yes 8% Yes 1%-3%
Sore throat Yes 1% No
Rash Yes 3% Yes 3%-9%

This may not be a complete list. Consult your doctor or pharmacist for possible side effects.
Source: DailyMed (Meloxicam), DailyMed (Ibuprofen)

Drug interactions of meloxicam vs. ibuprofen

Meloxicam and ibuprofen can interact with drugs that affect homeostasis. These drugs can include anticoagulants, antiplatelets, SSRI drugs, and SNRI drugs. Taking NSAIDs with these drugs may increase the risk of bleeding. Meloxicam and ibuprofen should be avoided with another aspirin, which is an NSAID that also acts as an antiplatelet medication for blood clots.

Meloxicam and ibuprofen can also interact with medications that treat high blood pressure. Taking NSAIDs may decrease the effects of high blood pressure medications like ACE inhibitors, ARBs, diuretics, and beta blockers. NSAIDs and blood pressure medications can also interact and cause kidney problems.

Those who take lithium or methotrexate may be at a higher risk of toxicity if they are also taking NSAIDs. This is because NSAIDs can affect how these drugs are processed in the body which can lead to toxic levels in the body.

Drug Drug Class Meloxicam Ibuprofen
Aspirin Antiplatelet Yes Yes
Warfarin Anticoagulant Yes Yes
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant Yes Yes
Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) antidepressant Yes Yes
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors Yes Yes
Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) Yes Yes
Beta-blockers Yes Yes
Diuretics Yes Yes
Lithium Mood stabilizer Yes Yes
Antimetabolite Yes Yes
Cyclosporine Immunosuppressant Yes Yes
Digoxin Cardiac glycoside Yes Yes

This may not be a complete list of all possible drug interactions. Consult a doctor with all medications you may be taking.

Warnings of meloxicam vs. ibuprofen

Both meloxicam and ibuprofen can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. This is because NSAIDs can alter the blood clotting functions of the body and harden the arteries over time. Cardiovascular events are not likely to occur during a short period of treatment. Those with a history of heart disease may be at a higher risk of these events.

Meloxicam and ibuprofen can also increase blood pressure. They should be monitored when taken with other blood pressure medications. Meloxicam and ibuprofen should not be used in those with risk factors such as a history of coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.

Meloxicam and ibuprofen can cause an increased risk of gastrointestinal adverse effects such as stomach ulcers and bleeding. They should be avoided in the elderly and anyone who has had a history of peptic ulcer disease and bleeding in the stomach or intestines.

Meloxicam and ibuprofen may cause toxicity in the liver and kidneys. Toxicity can occur with higher doses over time. Kidney problems can also play a role in worsening heart failure.

NSAIDs should be avoided in later pregnancy. This is because they can prematurely close the ductus arteriosus, which is an important blood vessel in the fetal heart. Caution should be taken with NSAIDs during pregnancy.

Frequently asked questions about meloxicam vs. ibuprofen

What is meloxicam?

Meloxicam is a prescription NSAID that is used to treat osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The brand name for meloxicam is Mobic. It is usually prescribed as 7.5 mg once daily adults and children with a weight equal to or greater than 60 kg.

What is ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen is an NSAID that is available over-the-counter for pain and fever. It is also available in higher prescription-strength doses to treat moderate pain from arthritis. Ibuprofen is often taken every 6 to 8 hours to treat pain or fever in adults and children aged 6 months and older.

Are meloxicam vs. ibuprofen the same?

Meloxicam and ibuprofen are not the same. Meloxicam is a once-daily medication that can only be used with a prescription. Ibuprofen needs to be taken in higher doses to be effective for higher pain levels.

Is meloxicam or ibuprofen better?

Meloxicam and ibuprofen are both effective for pain. They have both been shown to be comparable NSAIDs depending on the type of pain being treated. For some people, meloxicam may be preferred for its once-daily dosing.

Can I use meloxicam or ibuprofen while pregnant?

Like other NSAIDs, meloxicam and ibuprofen should be avoided after 30 weeks of gestation. This is because they can cause problems in the fetal heart. If you are pregnant, it’s important to discuss the use of NSAIDs with a doctor.

Can I use meloxicam and ibuprofen with alcohol?

It is not recommended to drink alcohol while taking NSAIDs like meloxicam and ibuprofen. Alcohol can act as a blood thinner and increase the risk of bleeding with NSAIDs.

Does meloxicam make you sleepy?

Sleepiness is not a common side effect of meloxicam. However, overdosing on meloxicam may cause some sleepiness. In this case, you may need to seek immediate medical attention. The most common side effects of meloxicam include abdominal pain, nausea, dizziness, and headache.

Is meloxicam a strong painkiller?

Meloxicam is a potent painkiller for arthritis. It is FDA approved to treat pain and inflammation from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. As a once-daily medication, it is a strong NSAID.